Category Archives: 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…

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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

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Holograms of the departed

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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.

 

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High-tech invention helping those with dementia reconnect with memories

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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.

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Free books for my fellow bookworms

travel and memoirs twitter if sept

UPDATE: Over 170 books given away, thanks for the support! Look for more promotions soon.

This post will be short and sweet, to allow my fellow bookworms to do what they love most, read!

To mark the debut of The Reluctant Caregiver, my caregiving essays collection, I am participating in a free book giveaway via Instafreebie. Not only can you download my ebook for free, you can download a total of 2 dozen books in the memoir and travel genres for free. All you have to submit is an email address.

Instafreebie Travel & Memoirs Giveaway

The promotion ends this Saturday, Sept. 23, so claim your free copies today.

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My collection of caregiving essays is now available

I’m excited to announce that The Reluctant Caregiver, my collection of caregiving essays, has been published and is available on Amazon and most digital bookstore platforms. It will be available as a paperback soon.

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Those of you who have followed The Memories Project for awhile know that I’ve been talking about publishing such a book for quite some time. It was very satisfying to hit the publish button.

I hope you’ll consider reading the collection, and telling others about it. Do keep in mind that the book presents a nontraditional perspective on family caregiving, and does contain some profanity. There are some graphic details about caregiving included in the essays, but also some humorous moments.

I think many caregivers will be able to relate to the roller coaster of emotions that accompanies any caregiving journey. I try to capture the good days and the bad days, the inspirational moments and those trying times that have sparked my interest in being a caregiver advocate. My ultimate goal is to reassure those caregivers who may be struggling, and to encourage caregivers to reach out if they need help.

Where to buy The Reluctant Caregiver:

Amazon: http://a.co/82c41dY

Other digital bookstores (including iBooks): http://books2read.com/u/3L9DnN

I’m available as a guest blogger and if you are promoting a book yourself, please reach out to me for cross-promotion opportunities.

Thanks for your support of The Memories Project. The feedback I’ve received from the blog and the connections I’ve made have helped turn The Reluctant Caregiver project into a reality.

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Marking Mom’s 80th birthday without her

Mom me portrait

Today my mother would have been 80 years old.

I wish she was still around to mark the milestone, but only if she was in a healthy state.

My mother and I were total opposites and we clashed plenty, especially during the time I was my mother’s caregiver. Much of those battles, some humorous, some painful, are captured in a series of essays that I hope to publish later this year. (It’s in the final edit phase now.)

But today is a day of celebration, and even though my mom could drive me crazy, she had many wonderful qualities that she tried to pass on to me. In honor of her 80th, here are 8 ways that I remember my mother and try to carry on her legacy.

  • Her sense of humor: Yes, it was corny as could be, but my mother loved to laugh. Even as she faced cancer, she still found ways to sneak in a bit of levity to the situation. We were all better for it. I have a much snarkier, darker sense of humor, but it’s there, and it did help me cope with the difficulties of caregiving.
  • Her love of family: Sometimes I found it smothering, but I know my mother truly loved me. In a world where children can be treated so cruelly, I know I’m fortunate to have had good, kind parents. Everyone has their faults, but even when Mom drove me nuts, she was doing it out of a place of love and concern.
  • Being a caregiver for my father: I may not have agreed with all of the decisions Mom made for Dad near the end of his life, but she earned the right to call the shots after taking care of him on her own for years. I helped where I could, but Mom was the one hands-on with Dad 24/7, as he lost his grip on reality thanks to dementia. Mom made the grueling Greyhound trips to see Dad at the memory care center, while she nursed a broken shoulder. Six months after his death, Mom was diagnosed with cancer. I think she paid the ultimate price with her health, but I know she would do it all over again.
  • Love of nature: My mother loved nature, whether it was animals or scenery. She even loved the blustery mountain winds that whipped around her condo in New Mexico, saying everything had its place. She may have been right, but those winds are brutal! But I do share her love of animals and an appreciation for the natural wonders of our world. I probably don’t stop enough to “smell the roses” but I make sure our birdfeeder stays full, in memory of Mom.
  • Appreciation for the little things: Mom could find delight in the smallest things, whether it was a good cup of coffee or a sunny day. It’s easy to take such things for granted, as I often do, but I try to channel Mom a bit and appreciate those small daily doses of wonder.
  • An interest in others: Mom loved to talk, but she also loved connecting with others. She didn’t discriminate in who she conversed with, and she certainly didn’t think she was better than others. The interest she showed in the lives of service workers who took care of her while she was at the bank, at the grocery store, or at the salon was admirable. I could tell by their reaction that many people treat service workers as if they were invisible. I’m not the chatty type, but I do make sure to make eye contact, smile and thank the person assisting me, to honor Mom’s legacy.
  • Her interest in the world around her: Mom maintained a keen interest in news until she died. She cared about world issues and was troubled by war and famine. She read the newspaper voraciously, and even though rehashing week-old news could test my patience, I admired her vested interest in the world around her. As a journalist, caring about these issues is my job, but it’s also my passion.
  • Her love of music: Mom loved the classic country and classic pop music of her youth, which included Elvis, Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and many more legends. I’ve had a love of music since my youth, and while I enjoy music from many genres, I gravitate towards these classic country artists, as well as some new ones who are channeling their outlaw spirit.

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