“I’ll be me”

“I am a lineman for the county, and I drive the main road.
Searchin’ in the sun for another overload.
I hear you singin’ in the wire,
I can hear you through the whine, and the Wichita lineman is still on the line”

If you began singing along while reading those words, then perhaps you were also one of the Glen Campbell fans back in 1968 when this song was “singin’ in the wire” and right into the hearts and lives of both country and pop music fans.

I owned several of his albums when I was little. At the time, I didn’t know what type of music it was, but just knew I loved every song Glen Campbell sang.

My husband and I just watched a documentary called “Glen Campbell: I’ll be me” that is both inspiring and encouraging. It was about his Farwell Tour that the family embarked on after he received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. The tour was originally scheduled to be a three-to-five-week goodbye tour, but ended up completing 151 concerts over a year and a half.

The documentary was filmed by Hollywood producer and Campbell’s long-time friend, James Keach, who also produced the award-winning Walk the Line, about Johnny and June Cash.

“Glen and his family are so in the moment, so supportive of one another and have really dedicated their life to changing the face of Alzheimer’s in America,” Keach says. “I think Glen’s legacy won’t just be music. It will be what he’s done with this journey with Alzheimer’s.”

The tour included three of his children in the back-up band. When discussing the tour and how Glen was able to accomplish it, his son, Cal Campbell sais “Maybe in his current state of haziness when he connects to something that he’s been doing for so long or brings him so much joy, I think he becomes himself again.”

Their attitude is to take each day as it comes, make the most of everyday, enjoy life and try to have fun. His son, Shannon Campbell added, “It’s not all bad, really. We get to celebrate his life while he’s still around.”

That is good advise whether you’re loved one is famous, rich and talented, or a simple soul. Try to do the activities that bring the most joy and celebrate life each day.

Kim, his wife of over 30 years, says, “We prepare for tomorrow, but try not to worry about tomorrow or else we can’t enjoy today.”

When asked how he wanted to be remembered, he responded, “Just for what I am. I’m Glenn Campbell and I believe in God, I believe in other people. Treat others like the way you want to be treated and help others who are less fortunate.”

The documentary ends with his song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”, which are both irony and a sad commentary considering the challenges he faces in life.

Good Bye, Glen, we’re going to miss you.

Are you a Glen Campbell fan? What is your favorite song?

Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and finishingwell-3Dcovertips 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 

Smiling Man

Hey Smiling Man, you waved to me! Yea! I’ve been waiting for some time.

That first time I saw you in the hall, you didn’t notice me – I guess you must have had something on your mind that day. After that, I looked for you every time I came in. Sometimes I would see you, but it took a long time before I could catch your eye.

I remember that first time you glanced my way. You looked a bit unsure, but returned my smile with a quick nod. Since that day, I have been getting better at catching your eye – now you look my way almost every time.  A couple of times, you’ve even spotted me first, and I noticed that your smile was becoming more spontaneous and enthusiastic – no longer waiting for me to smile first.

Today, however, was the best. When you spotted me, your whole face lit up and then finally, finally, finally – you waved!

Most of the residents at the care home where I visit my Mama won’t look at me, but there you are – smiling and now waving. Sometimes, I get sad after a visit with Mama, but your smile helps cheer me back up.

I wonder if you ever get any visitors or have any family in the area. In fact, I don’t know anything about you, and your condition, or even your name, but to me you will always be Mr. Smiling Man – thank you.

Is someone waiting for your smile today?


Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and finishingwell-3Dcovertips 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 

What a doll

I couldn’t believe my eyes. While I was at the care-home where my Mama lives, I noticed one of the residents in the hallway holding a tiny baby. What were they thinking? I quickly looked around for the baby’s mother. No one seemed to be paying any attention to her. Taking a closer look at the baby, I understood why –it was a doll! It was so lifelike, and the resident holding it looked so happy.

What a wonderful idea! Even if dementia has stolen and ripped away most of who your loved one was in their younger days, the maternal and paternal instinct is so deeply embedded into us as parents that the simple act of holding a (fake, weighted) doll can awaken the natural feelings that reside inside.

I did a bit of research to see if there had been any studies regarding the use of dolls for memory stimulation. Reading through the studies I could find, I learned that the dolls did, indeed seem to wake up the maternal or paternal instinct within many dementia patients. It did appear to have a greater effect on those in earlier stages of the disease.

One study in particular, conducted in 2007,  suggested doll therapy is a promising and effective approach to use in the care of older adults with dementia.

Many have found doll therapy to be a good way to engage loved ones while giving them a purposeful and rewarding activity. The dolls also seemed to have a calming effect and often created a distraction for them from upsetting events. Loved ones usually spent time rocking their baby dolls – which also helped them fall asleep. Another finding was that they often enjoyed singing to their doll, something family caregivers can join in or simply encourage their loved ones to sing on a regular basis.

The one major negative was that some family members or caregivers thought that giving a doll to someone with dementia was a demeaning and offensive practice.

The studies also agreed on some fundamental practices for the use of dolls:

  •  Do not call the doll a doll, refer to it as baby, or by name if your loved one has given it a name.
  • Provide a bassinet or small crib for the doll.
  • Do not purchase a who’s eyes open and close, or a doll that cries out loud, or as that could be upsetting.
  • Do not force the doll on your loved on. Let them discover, approach and hold the doll on their own time.
  • Be sure to communicate the purpose of the doll for any one else who may be providing care for your loved one.
  • Never remove the doll without permission of the person with dementia. When removing the doll, healthcare professionals and family members should hold the doll as if it were a living baby and explain where they are taking it, for example, if the doll is dirty, it is going to get a bath.

I believe that the bottom line is this is, try it, don’t force it and see what happens.

There is a Postize post on my Facebook group: Finishing Well for Caregivers that has some great photos folks with their dolls. Be sure to check it out as well.

What do you think about doll therapy? Have you found it to be an effective way to treat anxiety and behavioral issues in seniors with dementia, or do you believe that it is demeaning and an offensive practice?

What if you don’t sing?

There is a growing amount of evidence that music is able to revive hidden memories hidden deep inside your loved one’s brain.  But, suppose neither you nor your loved one was ever really a ‘music person’? Is it still possible to activate those missing memories?  I was having this very conversation with a friend of mine whose father had dementia.

When I mentioned the benefit of singing, his face fell and he said sadly, “I don’t ever remember my father singing. Music wasn’t part of our families’ culture.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I responded

Suddenly his face brightened, “But there is one thing –when my Dad was young, he won an ice cream eating contest. While I was growing up, our family ate a lot of ice cream. It was a bid deal for us to go to the ice cream parlor and hear my Dad tell us about the time he won that contest.”

“That’s fabulous,” I said.

“Ice cream may be his version of singing,” he continues, “The first thing he asks me when I visit him at the care home, is will I take him home. It was breaking my heart until one day I had an idea. I’d say ‘sure, let’s go get in the car.’ I drove down to the ice cream parlor and we would sit and eat ice cream and talk about the time he had won the trophy for eating ice cream. After we were finished, we would get back in the car and I would drive him back to the care home. When I pulled up into the driveway of the care home, he always smiles and says, ‘It’s good to be home.’”

So, it turns out that not only is singing a wonderful trigger for awakening memories that are hard to rouse, but other activities that hold a significance to your loved one can also awaken dormant memories.

For example, nature trips of all types can be fun. Especially places that have certain smells associated with them. If your loved one was raised on a farm, an excursion to a ranch to watch horses or cows might trigger pleasant memories. If not a farm, then perhaps a visit to a petting zoo for a bit of up-close time around animals could provide stimulation of both touch and smell.  Or, venture out downtown to a park bench to feed pigeons. If there is a park that includes a duck pond, perhaps feeding ducks will invoke hidden memories.

Keep in mind, though, trips can be tiring and over-stimulation can thwart the benefits of the outing, so keeping it short and go at times when there is less likely to be crowded.

What other ideas can you think of? What has worked for you?