Autumn sights, sounds and smells help trigger memories

I love this time of the year. Autumn, Fall, Holiday season – whatever you call it. Cooling trends begin as days get shorter. Trees begin dressing in their fall finery before decorating the ground with their orange, red and yellow jewels.

Beautiful autumn colors along Hwy 9 in Maine
Beautiful autumn colors along Hwy 9 in Maine

We recently enjoyed a road trip that took us through several New England states in order to spend time with family in New Brunswick, Canada. The trees were stunning, the air was crisp (as were the apples). The timing of our trip was perfect as we were also treated to the delightful show of fallen leaves dancing on the road in front of us caused by the wind whipping them up and around as we drove through Maine. 

Sensory stimulation is vital for everyone

Our senses help us comprehend the world around us. Studies show that senses are also powerful memory triggers. Why? According to LiveScience.com, the same part of the brain that’s in charge of processing our senses is also responsible, at least in part, for storing emotional memories. Our brains receive information through our senses; primarily sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. The Autumn season, it turns out holds a bushel full of sensory delights to help trigger a trip down memory lane.

Autumn memory triggers

Sensory stimulation may be helpful if you have a loved one who is becoming forgetful, or showing any symptoms of dementia.  Walking through familiar fall activities may help ‘prime the pump‘ so to speak and possibly activate some of the memories hidden inside their brain.  Ponder the possibilities by taking lovely drive through the countryside to view trees dressed in their fall finery and breath in the crisp, cool air.

A tractor and crates of pumpkins harvested for pies and carvings for autumn traditions
Harvesting pumpkins for pies and carvings for autumn traditions

The Thanksgiving Holiday plays a large part in packing the emotional memory box for Autumn. This season is resplendent with the sights, sounds and smells that can trigger old memories. Smell of pumpkin pies, wafting smoke from burning leaves, and cool morning mist. Beautiful changing leaves, blooming mums, as well as the taste of candy corn. Songs such as “Over the River and Through the Woods”, “Count Your Blessings”, and “My Favorite Things” are also powerful memory triggers.

The sing-song voices of children calling ‘Trick or Treat’ may trigger fun memories. Pay close attention to be sure they don’t become confused by all the costumes. Keeping activities short or limited is a good idea, as overstimulation can result in negative emotions.

Meaningful and familiar

Yummy pumpkin pie part of the Autumn tradition
Yummy pumpkin pie part of the Autumn tradition CC0 Creative Commons

The important thing with any activity is that it is meaningful and familiar to your loved one. If you are aware of traditions done in the past, then begin with those things. Don’t give up if you have to try a few things before something clicks. This is going to be a season of changes. When the smell of the old family recipe of pumpkin spice cake baking seems to perk your loved one up one day, but not the next, then perhaps vanilla will work. Smells, it turns out are the most powerful memory triggers of all the senses. The sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses.

As we turn the corner from the hot summer and temperatures begin to cool down, be sure to time for your own enjoyment of autumn. Wonderful recollections are good for everyone – not just those with memory issues.

Finish well!

Has your world been touched by dementia? Or, are you a caregiver? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey. Find our group
 on Facebook 


The Magic of Music in Memories

Music is an amazing elixir. We discovered that truth when our world began to change as we embarked on our journey of dementia with Mama. Her forgetfulness of ‘people, places and things’ grew to encompass all but the most familiar at an alarming rate. Personal routines broke down. Meals were forgotten, and longtime friends became strangers. I remember when I also became a stranger to her.

Sheet music and roses CC0 Public Domain
Sheet music and roses CC0 Public Domain

As memories fell away, we tried to focus on what remained.  Music endured. Wonderfully, music was the one constant. Mama had songs from a lifetime of singing. It was always a big part of our lives; in fact, I cannot remember any time growing up when Mama didn’t sing. It seemed she was always singing, especially in the car. We did a lot of summer road trips as a child, primarily from California to Michigan where my grandparents lived. On those long drives, we would sing, sing, sing. My parents had a wide musical interest which ran from popular songs of the day to Broadway musi­cals, and old southern songs such as “O Susanna,” and “On Top of Old Smokey”. We also had patriotic, silly and church songs, of which included, “God Bless America,” “Mairzy Doats,” “Playmate, Come out and Play With Me,” “Amazing Grace,” and the “Doxology.”

Music immersion

As time went on, we pursued as many opportunities for Mama to be immersed in music as possible. We played CDs of her favorite hymns, we watched musicals on TV, and even attended concerts held at a local theatre. One evening we enjoyed a fun ‘Banjo and Piano‘ band that played songs from the 1930s-40s. About halfway through, they played “You are my Sunshine” – she surprised us by singing along with the band!

While time moved forward, Mama continued to decline. Her ability to carry on conversations faltered, stuttered, and finally stopped, but to our delight, her singing ability remained. We learned that songs are an integral part of human experience. No matter how much of the thought process a loved one loses, music resides in the soul. As the disease progressed, it began to take more effort – more ‘priming the pump’ to get Mama to sing with me – I would sing the first verse of a song over and over to her. If I was persistent, she would eventually join me. One of her favorites of all time was, “My Wild Irish Rose”.

Helpful notes

The power of music to trigger memories is well documented in studies and by organizations such as Music and Memory . Singing with a loved one is a won­derful way to stay connected. Most folks have a song or two tucked away in their memory. A song some­one learned when they were eight will still re­main with them when they are 80.

If you are not sure what music your loved one would connect with, there is a website, Music Memories that has snippets of songs from several decades beginning with the 1920s. Choose a decade and play through the snippets until you develop a playlist that your loved one seems to connect with. Then you can go to YouTube, iTunes, or some other music source for the entire song. Unless I knew the song and could sing it with Mama, she used headphones to help her to enjoy the music. It is an amazing thing to watch the light of memories flash and sparkle in someone’s eyes – almost like magic.

Brush your teeth to stay healthy

I remember a time when I was in elementary school that a dentist came to visit our classroom. He brought everyone in the class a new toothbrush. He demonstrated with a model of teeth the correct way to brush.

First, we all brushed our teeth. Next, we were then given a little pinkish-red pill to swish around in our mouths.  Any plaque

Toothbrushes at the ready with my favorite toothpaste.
Toothbrushes at the ready with my favorite toothpaste.

remaining on our teeth would turn red. The teacher came around the room with a hand-held mirror so we could see how red our teeth were. This visit was based on one of the special projects aimed at the oral health of children implemented in the 1960s.

Most adults generally know that brushing and flossing our teeth is a good idea. Options for toothpaste, brushes and floss types abound along with numerous commercials and ads each touting the benefits of their products. Meeting regularly with your dentist for cleanings and checkups are also ways to prevent or fix any issues regarding your teeth.

According to the Mayo Clinic, we should brush our teeth twice a day. They have a saying, “When you brush, don’t rush. Take time to do a thorough job”. My husband and I have a saying as well, “You only have to brush the teeth you want to keep”.

Brush your teeth for bonus benefits

Besides the obvious reasons for practicing good oral hygiene such as keeping your mouth clean, preventing bad breath as well as tooth decay and gum disease, there are a few unexpected benefits for regular brushing (which is described as brushing twice in a 24-hour period).

An article titled “Surprising Connection between Gum Disease and Bad Knees“. According to the article in LiveScience.com, scientists have found traces of gum bacteria in the knees of people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, adds more evidence of the link between poor oral health and poor health in general.

I discovered another unexpected benefit while visiting a VA Hospital. A poster on the wall had a headline that caught my attention. It said, “Brush your Teeth to Prevent Pneumonia”. How interesting. It turns out that Shannon Munro, Ph.D., a nurse researcher had investigated the benefits of tooth brushing among hospitalized veterans.

The research demonstrated that if the biofilm that forms on teeth is removed twice a day, harmful bacteria will not migrate into patients’ lungs and cause pneumonia. Since the practice began an amazing drop in the pneumonia rates have dropped by nearly two thirds. It makes sense if it helps folks in the hospital, we all might benefit from such a practice.

On an interesting note: of the two brushing times, bedtime seems to be the most important. One reason is that saliva levels drop while you sleep,  which leaves bacteria and plaque to cause destruction to your teeth during the night.

So, at the end of the day (so to speak), you can give yourself the best smile possible when you take care of your teeth to the best of your ability.

Quality of life for loved one benefits everyone

Quality of life rises to a higher priority as options become more and more limited. When we first realized that Mama was beginning to display signs of dementia, our family made the unconscious decision to try to fill her life with as much joy as possible. I say ‘unconscious decision’ because, at that point, we didn’t know much about dementia. All we knew was that our smart and witty Mama, who enjoyed eating out, swimming and attending concerts would experience more joy if we tucked as many of these events as possible into her daily life.

Wayne pauses to smile as he checks one of our bird feeders. Bird watching has become an important part of our quality of life.
Wayne pauses to smile as he checks one of our bird feeders. Bird watching has become an important part of our quality of life.

These activities must be done on purpose. A default response can easily be to find the proverbial ‘rocking chair’, sit down and rock into oblivion. There may be some prodding and pestering involved in keeping your loved one active and as social as possible.

Bringing joy into Mama’s world didn’t always involve leaving the house. She enjoyed watching her goldfish swim about as well as a wide variety of old movies such as “The Sound of Music” and the ‘Three Stooges”. We also hung a finch sock filled with thistle outside the living room window, so she could watch all the beautiful, yellow finches flit and fly as they came and went from the bag throughout the day.

We went to as many places as possible as well. Leaving the house has its own set of challenges. Since Mama also suffered from diabetes, her ‘go bag’ needed to include a glucose monitor and a small packet of honey (found at coffee shops) in case her blood sugar dropped. Other things became necessary over time such as Depends and a change of clothes in order for Mama to stay active.

Change continues to happen. For example, before Mama broke her hip, she enjoyed taking a walk as often as possible. She was also quite social and loved to visit, even though she didn’t always make sense.

Once she couldn’t walk anymore, we put more emphasis on chatting, singing and praying. She also enjoyed looking out the window watching people and cars go by. As time went on the visiting became more and more one-sided and I would sing songs to her, read out loud and pray for her.

The search for joy and contentment is not limited to those with dementia. For every person, the pursuit will of necessity, require flexibility as needs and abilities change.

Quality of life important for everyone

Quality of life became a focus when my husband and I retired and moved across the country, we had to discover what activities would be included in our new lifestyle. We do keep busy. We have become beekeepers. Our backyard is small, but on a creek, so we have a good place for the bees to buzz around and (hopefully) make us lots of honey.

Our 'Bee Crossing' Sign that alerts the bees where to cross.
Our ‘Bee Crossing’ Sign that alerts the bees where to cross.

We also have hung several bird feeders that have attracted a lovely community of songbirds that we can watch from our dining room table. Quite a few of the birds are new to us here like cardinals, wrens, finches, sparrows and woodpeckers along with doves, titmice, nuthatches, threshers, and jays. We also have a couple of hummingbird feeders and enjoy watching the tiny little beauties visit the feeder throughout the day. For comic relief, we have several squirrels that chase and play all day long. Their main goal in life seems to be to get into the bird feeders (even though Wayne feeds them peanuts every morning).  When my sister Peggy and her husband came out to visit they bought us a special bird feeder that has a sensor on it. If a squirrel jumps on the perch, they end up spinning off. We call it ‘Twirl a Squirrel’ or ‘Squirrel-Go-Round’. They are quite persistent (and apparently thick-headed) as they try over and over.

Every stage and season of life will develop its own version of what expresses a good ‘quality of life’. Interests and abilities further define it for each person. If you’re not sure where to begin, here is a site that contains 25 Habits for Improving the Quality of your Life

Find your joy, finish well.



Finish well! Has your world been touched by dementia? Or, are you a caregiver? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey. Find our group on Facebook 

Get a grip to prevent ‘digital dementia’

Have you ever shaken someone’s hand and it felt like a limp noodle? You know the feeling. We’ve all experienced that from time to time. Have you ever wondered what it means?

Wayne and our son Adam shake hands
Wayne and our son Adam shake hands

A weak grip in a handshake may not mean anything except that someone is shy or lacks confidence in social settings.

On the other hand, a strong handshake may mean that someone is strong, confident, and trustworthy.

Could there be more to the story? Yes, as it turns out. Grip strength may actually indicate more than a personality indicator. Several recent studies suggest a correlation between grip strength and longevity.

One study carried out by researchers from University College London found evidence on the association between measures of physical capability, grip strength and balance, and the risk of an earlier death.

Another study by The Lancet concluded that grip strength was a stronger predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than systolic blood pressure.

PLOS Medicine did a nationwide population-based study in Taiwan among middle-aged and older people. It found that weak handgrip strength showed a significant association between cardiometabolic risk, and the danger of coronary artery disease.

My daughter, a Bodywork Therapist, is continually teaching her clients about the importance of doing muscle strengthening exercises. Since she is an expert on muscles (like a muscle doctor), my husband and I have found that it always benefits us to listen to her teaching and follow her advice.

I asked her what she thought about the importance of a strong grip. Very important, she replied, She explained that the strength of hand grips are a product of something called ‘recruiting’. Recruiting happens when our hand muscles call on muscles from other parts of our body – such as arms, neck, shoulders and even our torso. If those other muscles do not have the strength to respond, than it could be an indicator of muscle weakness. I believe that she hit the mark. A strong core can provide strength to our entire body.

Focusing on our grip strength and ways to improve it can mean more than simply a longer life – it can mean a better quality of life as well. Other reasons why a weak grip can impact our lives: The ability to stay active and independent frequently begins with our hands. Weak hand strength can impair a person’s ability to open a jar, grip a steering wheel, brush your teeth, or hold a grandchild. If you can’t open your medicine bottle, then taking medications becomes difficult.

Time to ‘get a grip’

To get a stronger grip on life, here are some exercises to help you work on your hand strength.

Here are some handgrip exercises, but keep in mind that the overall goal is to strengthen the entire body.

Web MD Slideshow: 10 Ways to Exercise Hands and Fingers

Range-of-motion hand mobility exercises you can do at home

Your muscles and tendons move the joints through arcs of motion, such as when you bend and straighten your fingers. If your normal range of motion is impaired — if you can’t bend your thumb without pain, for example — you may have trouble doing ordinary things like opening a jar.

These exercises move your wrist and fingers through their normal ranges of motion and require all the hand’s tendons to perform their specific functions. They should be done slowly and deliberately, to avoid injury. If you feel numbness or pain during or after exercising, stop and contact your doctor.

Harvard Health Publishing offers exercises to improve hand mobility  Below are five easy-to-do range-of-motion hand mobility exercises. Hold each position for 5–10 seconds. Do 10 repetitions of each exercise at a time. Repeat three times a day.

  1. Wrist extension and flexion
  • Place your forearm on a table on a rolled-up towel for padding with your hand hanging off the edge of the table, palm down.
  • Move the hand upward until you feel a gentle stretch
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat the same motions with the elbow bent at your side, palm facing up.
  1. Wrist supination/pronation
  • Stand or sit with your arm at your side with the elbow bent to 90 degrees, palm facing down.
  • Rotate your forearm, so that your palm faces up and then down.
  1. Wrist ulnar/radial deviation
  • Support your forearm on a table on a rolled-up towel for padding or on your knee, thumb upward.
  • Move the wrist up and down through its full range of motion.
  1. Thumb flexion/extension
  • Begin with your thumb positioned outward.
  • Move the thumb across the palm and back to the starting position.
  1. Hand/finger tendon glide
  • Start with the fingers extended straight out.
  • Make a hook fist; return to a straight hand.
  • Make a full fist; return to a straight hand.
  • Make a straight fist; return to a straight hand.

For more information on the causes and treatment of hand pain, and strengthening strategies for hands, buy Healthy Hands, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GRIP

A Digi-Flex helps users develop strength and dexterity in their fingers and hands. Trumpet players and softball players both use them to improve their manual agility, Evers said, so these devices are found in both music and sporting-goods stores.

Theraputty, which is like a more substantial Play-Doh and available in varying degrees of pliability, also is used in strength-building regimens.

“This is something we give out to patients. They take it home for home therapies and get different colors as they progress,” McKerrow said.

Although the putty can be satisfying to move around as a stress buster, McKerrow said there are specific exercises to go along with it, such as squeezing it between the thumb and forefinger to improve pincer hold strength.

In addition to working on the fingers and hands, McKerrow said the wrist and forearm are important aspects of total hand function.

“You need to have good wrist extension when you hold that coffee cup,” she said.

Want to get to work on your own hand strength? Evers and McKerrow shared the following exercises:

Rubber-ball squeeze: Grasp a ball in the palm of your hand and squeeze it as firmly as you can. Hold this squeeze for 8 to 10 seconds.

Theraputty pinches: Hold a small ball of putty between your thumb and finger. Squeeze it flat or roll it into a tube shape.

Rubberband stretch: Hold your hand with your fingers together and flat and your thumb directly underneath them. Place a rubber band over your thumb and fingers, then slowly move your fingers away from your thumb. Hold this position for a few seconds, then repeat.

Forward wrist extension: Sit near the edge of a table with your forearm supported from wrist to elbow. Your hand should be off the table and your palm should be facing the ceiling. Holding a light weight, slowly curl your wrist upward. Hold for a few seconds, then lower.

Backward wrist extension: Stand holding a light weight with your arm straight by your side. Your thumb should be pointed forward. Slowly flex your wrist to point the weight upward behind you. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower it.

Oh, one more thing. Don’t be too quick to judge someone’s health by their handshake – remember, some folks are left-handed and will naturally have a lighter grip with their non-dominate hand.



"Finishing Well: Finding the Joy in Dementia" can be ordered by clicking on the following link: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01GAG2ZMS
“Finishing Well: Finding the Joy in Dementia” By Senia Owensby

Has your world been touched by dementia? Or, are you a caregiver? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey. Find our group on Facebook 

Berries are berry, berry healthy for you

It’s berry season. I love berries. One of my fondest memories, when I was a little girl, involves picking wild berries that grew along a dirt road behind my grandparent’s home in Michigan. Blueberries, raspberries, and even one that my Grandpa called ‘June berries’. I don’t know what they really were, but I suspect that he called them June berries because that’s when they became ripe.

Wayne Owensby is getting ready to enjoy a delicious smoothie made with berries as well as a bunch of other tasty ingredients.
Wayne Owensby is getting ready to enjoy a delicious smoothie made with berries as well as a bunch of other tasty ingredients.

Most folks know, or at least suspect that berries are good for you, but it is always a bonus to have studies back it up. As nice as it is to know that berries help keep our bodies healthy, those of us who have loved ones with memory loss, or want to keep ourselves from memory loss will be gratified to know that according to two recent studies,  those who ate a cup of blueberries per day showed improvement in cognitive performance and brain function.

Also, a study conducted by Harvard researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that berries also appear to slow progression of memory decline in elderly women. They learned that a high intake of flavonoid-rich berries, such as strawberries and blueberries, over time, can delay memory decline in older women by two and a half years.

WebMD also weighs in with a study: Eating More Blueberries and Strawberries Is Linked to Better Brain Function With Age

Summer is a great time to enjoy berries, but since frozen berries are available year-round, we don’t have to limit the benefits to summertime. I did a web search to see if freezing berries destroy any of the nutrients. According to Healthy Advice Blog: “Freezing raw berries, fruits and vegetables does not kill the enzymes contained in these foods like heat does”

Healthy Advice goes on to mention another benefit: “Frozen berries when local, freshly picked ones are not available is that frozen fruits, berries, and vegetables are often more nutritious than produce that has been shipped a long distance. In order to transport well, fresh produce needs to be picked before they fully ripen to minimize bruising. Plus, with the time involved transporting produce cross-country, what you think are fresh fruits, berries and vegetables may actually be 1-2 weeks old, if not more. This causes them to lose much of their nutrients.”

Healthline.com adds a thought to the fresh vs frozen debate.   “Frozen fruit and vegetables are generally picked at peak ripeness. They are often washed, blanched, frozen and packaged within a few hours of being harvested.”

Strawberries arranged in a circle on a yellow plate.
One cup of fresh berries, like these organic strawberries, can be a part of a healthy addition to our diet.

One protest that typically arises whenever the topic is on healthy eating is cost. Eating berries may be part of a healthy diet, but if they are too expensive some folks believe they can’t afford them. No argument that berries can be pricey. I might maintain that though berries aren’t cheap to add to our diets,  perhaps instead of adding berries, there is something currently in the budget (less healthy) that can be substituted for berries? It may not be possible, but it may still be worth checking out.

To help determine what the cost of eating one cup of berries per day would be, next time you are at the grocery store, check out the frozen berry section and compare prices. Keep in mind that 1 pound is equal to about 3-3.5 cups of blueberries and about 2 cups per pint of strawberries (sliced).

If you’re still not convinced of the benefits, here is an article enlisting strawberries in the fight against cancer.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to choices.



"Finishing Well: Finding the Joy in Dementia" can be ordered by clicking on the following link: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01GAG2ZMS
“Finishing Well: Finding the Joy in Dementia” By Senia Owensby

Has your world been touched by dementia? Or, are you a caregiver? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey. Find our group on Facebook 

Technology helps bring families together

Technology is Great!

Twenty years ago, our daughter Bambi moved across the country to go to school. I was sad to see her go but was thankful that her move took place just as new types of communication technology was beginning to embed itself into households across the nation and around the world. Free email systems such as Yahoo and Hotmail were emerging as fun, fast and easy ways to connect with each other.

Using the technology of Skpye to visit with Wayne Owensby.
Using the technology of Skpye to visit with Wayne Owensby.

Bambi and I loved it. Even while we were able to chat and keep each other updated electronically, it was heart-breaking to think of loved-ones everywhere who had been separated before the age of technology. Letters were wonderful, loving keepsakes that spread news far and wide, but email, it turned out was the stuff of everyday interactions. Many resisted the use of email due to the casualness often used when composing an electronic letter, but I felt that it was the very fact that one could be less formal with email enabled us to keep current with otherwise little things and events, questions, answers, and observations of the day-to-day. Another thing Bambi and I used email for was a  chess game we played by using a modified Excel document.

One thing that propelled email forward and increased its popularity was that it was easy to use. My elderly parents were able to use something called an E-machine. It’s only function was email so it gave them an easy way to connect with friends.

Electronic communication began invading businesses as well. A large percentage of my workday became devoted to the care and maintenance of our company’s website.

Suddenly, it seemed a plethora of digital options became available. In addition to my computer and cell phone, I got a ‘Personal Digital Assistant’, or PDA. They were sort of a forerunner to the smart phones. A pink Motorola Razr was the next big phone step in my life. My daughter had a nifty phone called a Blackberry that both made calls and had email functions.

Technology advances

Another subtle shift in the technology wind came through the arrival of Smart Phones. My first smart phone was a DROID.

Wayne and I loving the technology of Google's Duo app to visit with one another on our phones.
Wayne and I loving the technology of Google’s Duo app to visit with one another on our phones.

The advent of smart phones allowed more integration between electronic devices such as computers and later, tablets. We achieved a level of communication that had previously been displayed on cartoons such as the ‘Jetsons’. Software that allowed us to both see and hear the person we were talking with blossomed. Skype was the first one we used. It was free, so we downloaded it onto our computer as did our children and voila! It was amazing. We could actually see and hear our grandchildren on our computer screen when we visited.

Time moved along as two distinctly different operating systems made their own version for communicating. Apple’s iPhone developed ‘Facetime’ which worked wonderfully on any Apple device. Google came up with their own system, ‘Duo’. It was great to visit with our granddaughters using ‘Duo’ while they held a phone and were able to visit while moving around their living room instead of sitting still in front of a computer.

Due to this modern, mobile age, much of our family—like so many others, are living in other states and countries. Technology brought an unexpected blessing. When my Mama passed away, some family members were able to attend the memorial service by using Facetime. We set up two iPads on the front pew and everyone could see and hear quite well. Last summer, we were delighted to be able to witness our daughter’s wedding in North Carolina on an iPad when we were 750 miles away in Connecticut. Other family members watched from Canada 1,500 miles away. We used Facetime again a few months later when my youngest brother died in a motorcycle accident.

Facebook then moved the video bar forward with ‘Facebook Live’. Even though it isn’t like ‘Facetime’ where we can visit in real time. You can view the video and post comments. Unfortunately, we were able to see the benefit of ‘Facebook Live’ eight months later my other brother died in a car accident in California, and again, many family members were unable to travel to the memorial. Our niece used  ‘Facebook Live’ to video the entire service. It was wonderful to not only watch the videos, but to also comment and read the comments of others. Technology has indeed caused the world to become much smaller and more intimate. Ain’t technology great?



"Finishing Well: Finding the Joy in Dementia" can be ordered by clicking on the following link: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01GAG2ZMS
“Finishing Well: Finding the Joy in Dementia” By Senia Owensby

Has your world been touched by dementia? Or, are you a caregiver? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey. Find our group on Facebook 

Chicken Soup: My Crazy Family

I recently received some good news! After submitting a couple of stories to “Chicken Soup for the Soul“, I was notified that one of my stories had been selected for their ‘My Crazy Family‘ book.

The front of the Chicken Soup: My Crazy Family book
The front of the Chicken Soup: My Crazy Family book

The story I submitted is called “Flights of Fancy“, (page 293). In the story, I relate some fun and fashion that we along with our son and his wife enjoyed on a trip to visit family living in Charlotte, North Carolina – more specifically, the adventure we had on the flight over.

The book is available:

Chicken Soup says this about the book

Everyone Has a Great Story about “My Crazy Family”A New Chicken Soup for the Soul Collection Showcases Those Wacky, Lovable Relatives
Nearly everyone thinks his or her own family is “crazy” or has at least one or two members who stand out from the crowd in a unique way. With its 101 stories of wacky, yet lovable, relatives, Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Crazy Family (Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC; Amy Newmark; April 10, 2018, 978-1-611599770, $14.95), provides a heartwarming and hilarious tour of everyone else’s families!

Chicken Soup for the Soul’s editor-in-chief Amy Newmark says, “What I loved about these stories is how much the writers truly care about their family members. Every story is filled with love and admiration for that eccentric aunt, that strict dad with a heart of gold, that flighty grandma who ultimately imparts the best advice, or that quirky mom who helps a family have fun together. As I read the stories, I felt even more strongly the bonds of family and appreciated my own.”

ABOUT CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL

Chicken Soup for the Soul, the world’s favorite and most recognized storyteller, publishes the famous Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. With well over 100 million books sold to date in the U.S. and
Canada alone, more than 250 titles, and translations into more than 40 languages, “chicken soup for the soul” is one of the world’s best-known phrases and is regularly referenced in pop culture. Today, 25 years after it first began sharing happiness, inspiration and hope through its books, this socially conscious company continues to publish a new title a month, but has also evolved beyond the bookstore with super premium pet food, television shows, and movies through its subsidiary, Chicken Soup for the Soul
Entertainment, podcasts, positive journalism from aplus.com, education programs, and licensed products, all revolving around true stories, as the company continues “changing the world one story at a time®.”

A Safety-Net for Wartime Veterans

Are you a wartime veteran of the US Military? Are you married to a wartime vet? During a recent experience at a VA Hospital, among the piles of paperwork my husband and I were handed was a small packet that explained a little-known benefit.

My husband Wayne, a Vietnam war era veteran. This is a photo of him in his Class-A uniform during basic training.
My husband Wayne, a Vietnam war era veteran. This is a photo of him in his Class-A uniform during basic training.

It is a VA Pension offered to wartime veterans by providing supplemental income to help them cope with financial challenges. (This is not to be confused with the 20-year Military Pension).

According to their website, VA’s pension program provides monthly benefit payments to certain wartime Veterans with financial need, and their survivors.

Who are eligible veterans?

A few of the requirements include the following:

You were discharged from service under other than ‘dishonorable conditions AND you served 90 days or more of active duty with at least 1 day during a period of wartime. Click here for additional eligibility requirements.

It is a small pension for qualified vets and their spouses who are over 65 or have a non-service connected disability. It works like a ‘safety-net’ to provide veterans with a minimum amount of monthly income.

According to the website, to qualify, your yearly family income must be less than the amount set by Congress to qualify for the Veterans Pension benefit. If eligible, your pension benefit is the difference between your “countable” income and the annual pension limit set by Congress. VA generally pays this difference in 12 equal monthly payments.

There is also an enhanced or special pension to help if the person is housebound or requires an aide or attendant. The VA website contains information about qualifications along with a video explaining the VA Pension: Enhanced Pension Benefits.

An early photo of Wayne's Mom and Dad. His Dad is a Korean War era veteran, this picture was taken upon his return from Korea.
An early photo of Wayne’s Mom and Dad. His Dad is a Korean War era veteran, this picture was taken upon his return from Korea.

The ‘Aid and Attendant’ feature would have been helpful to know back when my Dad, who was a veteran of the Korean conflict (June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955) became housebound for several years prior to his passing. Then, my Mama who was suffering from dementia needed to live with my sister and then my husband and myself.

Apply for Veterans Pension

To find out if you are eligible, You can apply for Veterans Pension online or download and complete VA Form 21P-527EZ. The application can be mailed in or taken to your local VA Benefits Office for processing. You can locate your local regional benefit office using the VA Facility Locator.

If you think you might meet the requirements, you should apply today. Don’t let another day go by without receiving everything you or your spouse has earned by serving their country. If you don’t qualify, be sure to pass this information along to anyone you know who might.

One more thing. There are a lot of scammers out there. Don’t be a victim! Be aware of pension poaching scams. Click here to learn how to keep yourself safe.



"Finishing Well: Finding the Joy in Dementia" can be ordered by clicking on the following link: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01GAG2ZMS
“Finishing Well: Finding the Joy in Dementia” By Senia Owensby

Has your world been touched by dementia? Or, are you a caregiver? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey. Find our group on Facebook 

Bird watching is good for mental health

Birds of a Feather

Birds have an amazing communication system. One day, while my Mama was living with us, we attended a potluck lunch to celebrate the end of a project. Held in the dining area of a lovely home, we had a lovely view of a beautifully landscaped backyard.

As we munched and chatted, I noticed a multitude of tiny yellow birds. They were crowded around what appeared to be a tube sock full of seeds attached by a hook to ornate, wrought iron poles. I was told that the birds were goldfinches and they were eating a black thistle seed called Nyjer. The ‘sock’ was made of a netted fabric that allowed the birds to pull out thistle with their small, pointed bills. It immediately occurred to us that Mama would love watching this.

We hung a couple of finch socks in front of the window. Though I’m not sure how birds pass the word along,  it didn’t take too long before our finch socks were sporting a dozen or so little yellow birds. They were fun to watch as they flitted about, jostling for position on the sock according to a pecking order known only to them. They were always in motion. It was fascinating to watch them come and go. They provided a constant show for Mama as she watched them regularly with rapt fascination.

Birds love our feeder, this little guy is a frequent visitor to our bird feeder
Birds love our feeder, this little guy is a frequent visitor to our bird feeder

Birds in North Carolina

Our recent move to the east coast has given us new birds to entice to our feeders. Most notably, the famous North Carolina Cardinals. With a quick bit of research, we learned these beautiful red birds love black sunflower seeds –  abundant in the wild birdseed mix we found. We also discovered suet – a hard block of a seed mixture that sets inside a rectangle frame which the birds hang onto while feasting at the suet.

We found branches that were strong enough to hold the feeders, but too thin for squirrels to climb on. Since the squirrels here are quite clever about getting into bird feeders, we were careful to select just the right branches. We hung our new feeders, sat back and waited.

The bird communication system must have activated again as it was not long before a variety of ‘southern winged visitors’ began to show up. How lovely it was to watch the birds as they eagerly began to munch on the seeds. We began seeing cardinals, sparrows, doves, titmice, nuthatches, and wrens along with a variety of woodpeckers as well as the occasional hawk.

My husband and I found it a very peaceable thing to watch the birds (as well as squirrels) flit, fly and scamper around in search of their favorite munchies.  Watching them, I understood Mama’s fascination with the flitting little flyers as we began watching and learning the habits and songs as well as species of the winged visitors who come to our little backyard feeders.

As it turns out, according to ‘ScienceDaily’,  birdwatching is very therapeutic. However, birds may not be your thing; perhaps fish are more enjoyable or possibly petting cats. The important thing is to find something soothing that will enable you to take at least one ‘mental health’ break each day to refresh and recharge.



"Finishing Well: Finding the Joy in Dementia" can be ordered by clicking on the following link: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01GAG2ZMS
“Finishing Well: Finding the Joy in Dementia” By Senia Owensby

Has your world been touched by dementia? Or, are you a caregiver? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey. Find our group on Facebook 

Great starts are easy, the goal is to finish well