Tag Archives: finishing

Name that NOUN

Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation with someone and blanked on a person’s name or the name of a place or thing? It seems to be a common occurrence among older adults.

For example, I recently heard a story about a lady who had just received an annual delivery of salmon filets. She was relieved to see that each fish was intact, as the prior year’s shipment had some fillets with chunks cut out due to sea lions attacking and biting the salmon in the nets. While telling a friend how happy she was to get the fish in such good condition this year, her friend asked what had happened to them the year before. As she began to reply, she blanked on the word ‘sea lions’. So instead she said, “They were bitten by ground squirrels.finishing-well-in-life-squirrel1

I can relate.

The significant difference between normal lapses – such as forgetting someone’s name and worrisome memory loss is determined by the impact it has on your ability to function—your ability to do the things you want to do.

Normal age-related forgetfulness

According to helpguide.org, the following types of memory lapses are normal among older adults and generally are not considered warning signs of dementia:

  • Occasionally forgetting where you left things you use regularly, such as glasses or keys.

  • Forgetting names of acquaintances or blocking one memory with a similar one, such as calling a grandson by your son’s name.

  • Occasionally forgetting an appointment.

  • Having trouble remembering what you’ve just read, or the details of a conversation.

  • Walking into a room and forgetting why you entered.

  • Becoming easily distracted.

  • Not quite being able to retrieve information you have “on the tip of your tongue.”

On a good note, it turns out that our brains seem to be capable of producing new cells at any age, so just as physical exercise helps strengthen muscles, there are a variety of ways to strengthen our brains to improve cognitive skills as well as prevent memory loss.

My sister and I have developed our own test for determining whether or not a lapse indicates normal forgetfulness, or impending dementia. (Although we don’t remember ever forgetting anything.)

It’s okay to forget where your keys are, it’s not okay to forget what your keys do.”

So remember, although frustrating, most age-related memory lapses
finishing-well-in-life-squirrel2 are not the same as dementia. I’ve decided that the next time I can’t remember what to call a particular noun, I believe will call it a 
ground squirrel’.

The Visitor

I recognize the sound of her footsteps in the hallway. Is she going to visit me? She’s here!  I have to try to open my eyes or she’ll think I’m asleep.

“Hi Mama”, she says with a bright smile. I wish I could respond to her greeting. She’s placing her hand under my chin, and turning my head a little so I can look at her. Oh! I think I smiled!

She begins the visit with her usual question “How are you feeling today?”  How I wish I could tell her this time…I just don’t know how.

I try to reach out to her, but my hands won’t obey. They feel as if they are glued into a fist. I’ve been holding tightly to something, but I can’t remember what it is anymore, and can’t let go. Somehow my fingers have forgotten how to unfold. “What are you holding onto, Mama?” She asks as she slowly opens my hand. It takes a while and it feels a bit uncomfortable, but I love how she holds my hand and rubs my fingers as she talks to me.

Yikes! She always seems to think it’s necessary to tickle my feet.  I wish I could move my feet to let her know I can feel it….oh well. I grimaced. At least I think I grimaced.

“Do you want to sing with me?” she asks. Yes! She’s singing my favorite song, “My wild Irish rose”. I want to sing too! I try, but my mouth doesn’t work right. I think she sees me trying because she is beginning again.

Am I singing now? I think I am…but it’s so hard to tell. She asks me again, “Come on, Mama, sing with me.” I must not be. She looks at me with anxious eyes; I desperately wish I could make my mouth work! Another song? I’m glad she doesn’t give up. I’m trying – really I am. I love listening to her sing; I wish she could know how loud I am singing on the inside.

My mouth is so dry that it doesn’t want to work right. I’ll try to tell her I’m thirsty. Oh, what’s this, grape juice? Maybe she understood. Yuck! It tastes so blah. She seems to think it’s my favorite. Okay, I’ll drink it. I think I’m drinking.  Wow, something cold is running down my neck – maybe it’s the juice.

Oh yeah, I need remember to swallow. Swallow, swallow, swallow – that’s better. Is it all gone? I think so! I guess I feel a bit better, but I wish I could tell her that grape is not my favorite.

Oh no, here comes the wet washcloth. I don’t like this part. She wipes with it all over my face; eyes, nose, mouth – even my neck where the juice was cold. Now comes the lipstick. It’s such a pretty color. Oh good, she’s putting it on me! I hope I look nice.

Now she’s praying. I love it when she prays for me. She says the words that I wish I could say out loud to God. I can feel God’s presence, I wonder if she notices? What’s this? Am I crying? It’s so hard to tell…

All done – she’s getting ready to leave, “Bye Mama”, she says. “I’ll see you when I come back.”Oh, how I hate to see her leave! I hope she’ll be back again soon.

Hmmm, I wonder who she is?

Sing, sing, singing the blues away

Are you feeling blue? Overwhelmed? Take heart – or take up singing.

The almost magical affect music has on those suffering from dementia are well established, but what about those who care for them?

Here’s some good news: I just read about a study that showed a wonderful side-benefit to music therapy. It seems that it does more than enhance the quality of life of dementia patients – it also appears to improve the mood and emotions of caregivers.

Another surprise, according to this five-month study conducted in the UK, was that the benefit lasted well after the trial ended, measurements taken two months later showing continued improvement.

Music is the language of the soul. It appears to enter the brain differently than words alone or other noise. To gain the most benefit from musical therapy, it is important to be engaged in the music somehow, rather than just having it play in the background.

A few ways to really engage are:

Singing, humming or whistling is the best way to connect to the music. Also, the use of headphones can be helpful as well as viewing a music video. The most effective songs seem to be the tunes from a persons ‘formative years’. For my Mama, who was born in 1931, the top hits of the 1940s as well as hymns had the most impact on her. A variety of online sites such as www.youtube.com  can provide easy access to a variety of music videos.

Not sure what music is best? Try a song and watch for a positive reaction. Develop a playlist. If it turns out that the list is short, it is okay. If someone has dementia, songs can be played over and over again as long as they are helpful to the listener.

Have you noticed this to be true in your experience?

Sometimes, the journey is long….

Caring for you loved one can be a mix of joy, duty, exhaustion, determination, honor, love and tears.

What is your story? Who are you caring for? What are some of your coping strategies? Who helps you? Why do you keep going? How do you find respite?

Please share any ideas, tips, helps and wisdom with others who are walking down this road.

I remember one particularly difficult day. I was so exhausted – Mama needed so much care. I thought about the promise I made to Daddy right before he passed away. I told him he wouldn’t have to worry, that I would take care of Mama. But right then, at that moment, in the middle of my tired I wasn’t sure how much longer I could go on. I cried out to the Lord and asked Him to help me finish well.

His answer came by providing a variety of help day by day as we continued the journey. The biggest answer was that no one can do this alone. Family, friends, agencies and yes, Blog posts and comments are ways to get help, help others and find coping strategies to continue walking day by day.