Tag Archives: visiting

An Hour a Week…

A friend of mine was frustrated. Her Mother is in the early stages of dementia, and although she is one of four siblings, the weight of decisions regarding her Mother’s care falls to her.

After an extensive search, she and her husband found an acceptable care home that had an opening in the city where they live.

My friend is able to visit her Mother a few times a week. She was pleased with the level of care they provided, which included a wide variety of activities. Her Mother regularly enjoyed strolling through the garden area and sitting on the shady benches while visiting with friends among the beautiful flowers. All seemed well as her mother settled into the routines at her new home.

Then one day my friend received a call from the director of the facility. He informed her that a decision had been made to move her mother to a different house within the complex. The care home campus consists of three homes, with each one housing residents of similar abilities. She and her husband were a bit uncertain about this move since they had been quite happy with the previous arrangements and were concerned that this change could be detrimental to her mental well-being.  He stated that she would be given a thirty-day notice if they did not go along with the move. Due to the lack of options, they agreed to this unsettling change.

As feared, her mother’s condition worsened after the move. The residents in the new home were much less active – or talkative. Before long her mother began to settle into a more sedentary lifestyle as well. It was at this point where my friend was sharing her frustrations with me. She was concerned that her visits would not be enough to counteract the effects of her Mother’s new living situation.

Shortly after our visit, I came across a wonderful study published in “Neurology Advisor” that found that just one hour a week of social interaction improved patients’ quality of life and eased their agitation.  The study included more than 800 dementia patients living in 69 nursing homes in the United Kingdom.

The key word here is social interaction’. As long as there is any willingness or ability for a loved one to be actively involved in the visit there seems to be a measure of benefit. Some examples of active involvement include conversations, singing together, playing cards, board games, or bingo.

Try to discover what activities your loved one might enjoy doing, (although this may change over time).  I would encourage you to venture out when you can. Help your loved one go to their place of worship, attend concerts, browse art galleries, feed ducks at the park, or visit a zoo.

Do whatever your loved one enjoyed prior to the onset of dementia and even add a few activities whenever possible.  When it comes to food, help your loved one share a meal with others, whether it’s at a restaurant, with family, or in the dining room of the care home.

The best part of this study is that it shows what only one hour of social interaction’ can do to improve quality of life, additional time spent may help even more.

An additional benefit may be the discovery that the increased ‘quality of life’ and ‘sense of connection’ may flow both ways.

 

Keeper of History

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Evelyn Elsbury

Not much happens in my friend Evelyn Elsbury’s world that she doesn’t note, jot, type and photograph. Her closets shelves display binder after binder chalked-full of photographs, letters, cards, clippings, and love. She has worked tirelessly to make sure she has collected and cataloged not only her life and history but has also created individualized binders for all her family members – including great grandchildren.

Born in Cook, Nebraska, on June 22, 1913, when Woodrow Wilson was President, Evelyn was the oldest of six children, three girls, and three boys. For the first 100 years of her life, she believed that her birthday was June 23, but one day while filling a prescription, it came to light that it might actually be June 22. After sending off for a certified copy of her birth certificate, she was surprised to learn that she was indeed born on June 22, 1913. It may be hard to imagine how it didn’t come up earlier, but it seems that there just wasn’t a lot of need to produce birth certificates during the previous century. Her Mother broke her leg just prior to giving birth to Evelyn, so the record-keeping may have had occasion to slip.

Her formative years were spent in Omaha, Nebraska, but in 1927, her Father packed up the whole family and headed to California. The journey would take them almost three months as roads were rough and they experienced many breakdowns and flat tires.  The California destination was triggered by her mother’s asthma and the doctor had suggested they try living in a dryer climate.

Her father saw an advertisement that said, “Come to Rio Linda, raise chickens and get rich!”  So they tried to make a go of it, but the ground was too hard to grow anything.  Her Father had driven a street car in Nebraska, and in California became a streetcar driver for PG&E.

Her mother passed away when Evelyn was 22 leaving several young children to care for. Even though she had already met the man she was going to marry, Evelyn spent the next four years caring for her younger siblings. With so many mouths to feed, Evelyn did what she could to supplement the family’s income with a variety of jobs including babysitting and ironing. Her mother had been a housekeeper for a local doctor, and after the death of her mother, she took over that responsibility as well.

She married Bill Ensbury, the love of her life on Oct. 15, 1939, and was married 52 years until Bill passed away in 1991. They had one son, Richard who lives in Northern California.

Bill was a forest ranger. They lived in Sterling City while young Richard was in elementary school, but when he graduated the 8th grade, they moved to Chico.  Evelyn was a housewife when they lived in Sterling City, but after they moved to Chico, she went to work capping toothpaste tubes to earn enough money to buy a Television Set. She also worked at Grants Department Store. After Chico, they moved north to Yreka, where she worked for the Welfare Department.

Evelyn has always been involved in church. While in Sterling City, they became acquainted with a pastor and his wife Bernard and Doris Johnson who were planning to go to Brazil as missionaries. Evelyn spent the next several decades creating hundreds of beautiful placemats out of recycled Christmas cards each year to send to the Johnson’s to brighten up their holidays.

Evelyn has shown that same industrious spirit in everything she turns her attention to. The history she has kept and preserved will continue to bless family and friends for countless generations to come.



Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips finishingwellinlife3Dcoverabout doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey.

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Joy has the ‘Wright’ idea

I just had a delightful phone conversation with a dear, old friend of mine, Joy Wright. It’s not that I have known her for so many years, but Joy is one of those people that once you become acquainted, it seems that you’ve been friends always.

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Joy Wright pauses from sorting blankets for a photo at the Recycle The Warmth 2016

She is interesting and amusing, compassionate and energetic. Joy’s personality reminds me of an M&M (not the kind with the nut inside), colorful and hard on the outside and sweet and soft on the inside.

We met one year when she volunteered to help at “Recycle The Warmth”, an annual project that provides blankets and warm coats to anyone in need. We immediately hit it off and she has returned to volunteer every year since.

Joy, who was born in 1928, has always been a bundle of energy. She is involved in a variety of projects and volunteer activities. I knew she was a busy girl, but until recently, I had no idea just how busy. Joy operates on the principle that when she sees a need, she tries to fill it – not wait for someone else to come along. Well, she certainly filled a need at Recycle the Warmth – coming early and staying late.

Joy’s  willingness to jump in and do what’s needed even captured the attention of the Soroptimists International of Red Bluff. They awarded her  Senior Citizen of the Year 2016 at the annual Farm City Night banquet hosted by the Tehama County Farm Bureau.

Other ‘needs’ that Joy is trying to fill includes “Alternative To Violence” (ATV). She was one of the founding board members. Joy also volunteers at the P.A.T.H. shelter three times a month as well as helping with the Presbyterian Church’s annual Thanksgiving dinner they offer for anyone who might find themselves alone on the holiday.

Joy spent 14 years as the then newly–minted ‘Executive Housekeeper’ for St. Elizabeth Community Hospital where she oversaw ‘all things clean’ in her own, unique style.

After retirement, Joy returned to college and received a BA in Business Administration from Simpson University. She can be seen regularly doing various office projects at the Shasta College Tehama Campus – she began when it was on Palm Street before they built the nice, new campus on Diamond Ave. Her focus there now is proctoring tests.

But wait….there’s more! Joy is also a member of the Soroptimist International Red Bluff whose motto is: “Improving the Lives of Women and Girls” – a perfect fit for her. For over a decade, Joy has also been involved in providing the ‘building guards’ for the Tehama District Fair each year. The guards keep an eye on things and watch over the exhibits during the fair.

Wow. It makes me tired just thinking about it. I asked Joy why she is so involved and she told me about something she read on a wall in Truckee where her husband was working for PG&E back in 1969: “Not here on Earth to see through each other, but to see each other through”.

Joy is well named – it’s what she brings to those in her world. She is always at the ready with acts of kindness that will help see someone through.

 



Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and  tips finishingwellinlife3Dcoverabout doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey.

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Are you a Caregiver? Do you know one?

William Shakespeare wrote:  “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Most family Caregivers I know fall into that last category.

It turns out that November is National Family Caregivers Month. Caregivers are typically folks who stepped up to finishing_well_in_life_cargvrthe plate and accepted the role of caring for parents, spouse or other loved-ones.

This is a good time to celebrate the contribution of those volunteer friends and family members who care for loved-ones – not by a pat on the back, but in some concrete ways. Family Caregivers are certainty heroes, but not ‘Superhero’s (meaning they can go on endlessly and never tire).

Usually, Caregivers are not complainers and are often reluctant to ask for help. Because of that, I thought I would offer a few suggestions that will provide concrete help for those who are either a Caregiver or a friend of one.

  1. Friend: provide a meal for someone who is caregiving. Caregiver: Accept/request a specific meal.
  2. Friend: Offer to sit with a loved one.  Caregiver: Accept the offer for someone else to sit with or visit your loved one.
  3. Friend: Offer to run errands.Caregiver: Accept the offer and make a list.
  4. Friend: Clean/do laundry (even taking larger bedding to a laundromat.  Caregiver: Accept the offer – you can’t do it all.
  5. Friend: Ask your friend specifically what you can do to help.  Caregiver: Accept the help, answer honestly.

Additionally, ‘Alzheimers.net’ offers some very specific ways to help the unsung heroes in our world. Click on the following link for ideas: 7 Ways to Celebrate  Caregivers 

Additional resources include:

Remember, you can’t do it all whether you are the caregiver or friend. Sometimes the best help may be a welcome visit that provides a temporary distraction.



Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and  tips finishingwellinlife3Dcoverabout doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey.

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Emotional Memories

More often than not when I arrive for a visit at the carehome where my Mama lives, she is either sleeping or simply staring out into space.

I usually put my hand under her chin and turn her head towards me in order to make eye contact and get her attention.  When she looks at me, there is no flicker of recognition in her eyes. I’ve come to terms with that – knowing I’m her daughter is a memory that dementia stole long ago.

I always begin with a smile. Establishing eye contact is our initial point of connection.  Everything proceeds from there.

When I am able to make eye contact during our visits, it is easier for her to make a connection between my speaking to the noise she is hearing.

A famous quote from Maya Angelou, an American poet says, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

A recent study by the University of Iowa has confirmed Angelou’s statement. The results of the study concludes that caregivers can have a profound influence for either good or bad on the emotional state of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.finishing_well-in-life-connect

It’s called Emotional memory. It is the memory of the feelings associated with an event, as opposed to the facts of the event. They may not remember the details of recent visit by a loved one or mistreatment by staff at a nursing home, but those actions can have a lasting impact on how they feel.

One of the researchers in the study, Guzmán-Vélez, states,Our findings should empower caregivers by showing them that their actions toward patients really do matter.”

So it turns out that even though Mama and others in her condition are not able to remember facts, their emotional memory is as active as ever.

I am not always able to achieve a good connection with Mama during our visits. Sometimes she is so far lost in the world of dementia that “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” are unable to pull her consciousness back to this world again. But we are doing the best we can… and so is Mama.

Still the life of the party at 105

Even at the age of 105, Babe Gow isn’t the oldest living member of her family. That distinction is held by her brother, Larry Matthews. At 110, he is currently the oldest living man in the United States.

Born in Oakland on Aug. 22, 1911, she was the seventh of nine children. Her given name is Clairbel, but you’ll get ‘the look’ if you call her that – she prefers to go by the name ‘Babe’.finishing_well_in_life_babe

Babe married Andrew Gow, now deceased, in the early 1930s. They moved to Red Bluff in 1944. Having the opportunity to go into business, they opened “Andy Gow’s Donut Kitchen”.  Every morning the delightful scent of the doughnuts cooking drew folks in from nearby business – it was common for the line to reach down the block.

Later, they became the managers of the “Tremont Hotel” on Main Street. It was told that they never turned anyone away. During the busy rodeo season, even if they were completely booked, Babe was known to allow out-of-town cowboys to find a corner to get some much-needed sleep.

Babe’s managerial abilities were also put to good use as the manager of the Hope Chest on Grant Street – a position she held for many years.  Never one to sit still, she was also the secretary of the Auction Yard. If that wasn’t enough, she spent some time working in Rasco’s Variety Store and Sprouse Ritz on Walnut Street as well as selling Avon and Home Interiors.

Babe loved to be on the go. A full blooded Portuguese, she was pleased to have the opportunity to travel to Portugal for a trip of a lifetime with her family after the death of her husband.

In spite of her busy schedule, Babe always found time for her two favorite sports; Bowling and Golf. She was on a bowling league for several decades, and continued to play golf well into her late 80s. Ever spry, she was still climbing up on the house at the age of 90, but hiding her ladder put a stop to that.

Loving people is a skill that comes naturally to Babe, and she shines the brightest when she is with her family – especially the babies. Anytime the little ones arrive at Brookdale to visit, her whole face lights up. Babe’s speech is becoming limited, but her ability to communicate is still quite strong.

Andrew and Babe’s three daughters still live in Northern California, as do many of her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.

A party was held a few weeks ago to mark Babe’s 105th birthday. One of the cards on display said, “Happy Birthday to one hot Babe”. At the age of 105, she’s still the life of the party.



Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and  tips finishingwellinlife3Dcoverabout doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey.

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Retired banker investing in his community

Everett McDonough is a man who never stops reading. He routinely reads about 200 books a year. He has settled on a favorite spot in his lovely living room surrounded by family portraits and mementos to enjoy all his books. There are plenty of regular books, but I noticed that a Kindle and smartphone were at his fingertips. Ev has certainly kept up with the technology of the day as attested to by the beautiful classical music courtesy of Pandora emanating from his Sonos speakers system.finishing_well_in_life_ev

Born in 1934, his family moved to Yonkers, NY in 1935. He was raised in the neighborhood of Bryn Mawr and attended public schools. Ev received his BA in Economics and History at Cornell University.

While at Cornell, he was in the Air Force ROTC. Ev served as a commissioned officer after graduation working as an Aircraft Navigator in the Air Force. After his discharge, he was fortunate enough spend a summer as a tour guide throughout Europe for the children of a close family friend.

Returning to the US, Ev earned an MBA at Columbia University and was immediately hired by Security First National Bank of Los Angeles. After graduation in the early 60s, he came out to California and eventually settled in the Pasadena area. More schooling was ahead as he attended Pacific Coast Banking School in the University of Washington, Seattle on behalf of the bank. He graduated with honors from the three-year summer program.

Ev’s father, who has a PhD in Organic Chemistry instilled into him the importance of giving back to your community. Taking it to heart, Ev became involved with the Pasadena Jr. Chamber, and both the Los Angeles and Pasadena Rotary Clubs. His boss was the National Chairman of American Red Cross and Ev was fortunate to work closely with him on several projects.

Ev loved his work and had a successful career in banking. He was told once that his successes were not from luck, but that he was able to use experiences that came his way. He retired from Security Pacific Bank as a Sr. Vice President.

After retirement, he stayed in the Pasadena area until he discovered Red Bluff while visiting friends. He moved north shortly afterward. Ev immediately jumped into activities and associations with both feet. In fact, he began attending the Red Bluff Rotary Club meetings before he even moved to the area.

Other areas of interest include the Friends of the library, SIRS (Seniors in Retirement), St. Elizabeth Development Committee, Tehama Concert Series, P.E.T.S., Board member of The Grove and my personal favorite – where I became acquainted with Ev: Tehama County Tax-Aide program, that he has headed up for the past several years. He is also very active in the Presbyterian Church.

Knowing Ev, there are probably many other involvements as well. He did mention that it might be time for him to cut back and slow down a bit – we’ll see how that goes.

In 2008, Ev was named ‘Senior Citizen of the Year’ at the annual Farm/City night. Ev loves animals and is the personal valet of his three cats. He thinks he owns them, but the cats know better. Everywhere Ev goes he changes and enriches the community around him.

When asked why he is so involved, he responded, “There’s no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. I appreciate the opportunities that are here and I feel an obligation to give back to the community.



 

Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and  tips finishingwellinlife3Dcoverabout doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey.

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Memories and memorials

You really can go home again. In fact, according to a recent article,  it is good for the memory. Of course, the saying “You can’t go home again” has more to do with wanting things to be exactly as they were in the past. That is a different issue. The article touched on a variety of ways to help the memories of the present by experiencing places, faces and the smells of the past.finishing_well_in_life_map

We were able to experience some of the joy of reminiscences on a recent trip we took to visit the area where my husband spent a great deal of his childhood. One of his dear cousins passed away, and we traveled up to the state of Washington for the memorial. While there, we did some driving around to see some his childhood houses and haunts.

One place in particular was a wonderful meat store called “Farmer George Meats”  in Port Orchard – by the way, if you ever find yourself in the region, make sure you stop by Farmer George Meats and pick up some of the finest jerky or beef sticks on the planet. Not only was the visual of seeing the shop wonderful, but the smell of the ‘smokes and spices‘ used to prepare the meat triggered a cacophony of wonderful memories.

When we were first married, Wayne was stationed at Fort Lewis near Tacoma, so while we were there, we also checked out the places we lived at that time. Though we noticed the differences, we appreciated the parts that were the same.

The memorial itself, with all the various family and friends, evoked powerful associations and memories.  There is something inherently satisfying about making those types of connections.

To make a delightful trip (though for a sad reason) more enjoyable, we were able to stop in Portland for a short visit with one of my cousins. The visit was lovely as we were able to catch up on family news. As an unexpected bonus, the sound of my cousin’s voice (with her charming Wisconsin accent) produced powerful reminders of the sounds of speech I heard as a child back in the Great Lakes area.

Our oldest son is getting to enjoy, to a degree some of the joys of returning to visit his hometown, as he has been able to come out to California for a rare vacation. He has been able to see the familiar faces and places from his childhood.

As Glenn E. Smith, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at the Mayo Clinic, in an article on the clinic’s website says, By gathering memories, you can bring important events and experiences from your loved one’s past into the present. You’re the link to his or her life history.

So, whether physically, or virtually, try to take a trip or two down memory lane to enjoy a journey of a lifetime.

The “Piano Man” keeps rolling

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John Gonsalves, left discusses a song with his wife Saralu and Becky Huskey.

The monthly birthday celebration at Red Bluff Health Care got jazzed up when the piano man, otherwise known as John Gonsalves rolled up to the piano to play along.

The band, “Loosely Strung” comes by every month to help celebrate birthdays, but this month John Gonsalves, who is a short-term resident while recovering from surgery delighted the residents and musicians alike by playing a few favorites on the piano.

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Tony Mayr, left, plays the harmonica in a duet with John Gonsalves.

John was accompanied by another resident, Tony Mayr, a fabulous harmonica player, who has been hooked on the harmonica ever since he came across a toy one as a young lad. That one got destroyed and was replaced by a better instrument. Since each harmonica only has one key, Tony carries a box of harmonicas in various keys with him.

Since the age of 15, John has been playing a variety of instruments. He occasionally played piano with local bands such as Jr. Lesher and Dale  Twiggs band. He played his part in the military as a member of the US Army’s “Screamin’ Eagles Band”. The band traveled throughout the United States and Canada, performing in parades and revues.

After the Army, John attained a Master’s degree in composition and jazz arranging.  He put those skills to good use throughout his 33-year career as a music teacher in Tehama County. One of the members of “Loosely Strung”, Becky Huskey, was offered the opportunity to become Antelope School District’s full-time music instructor when John retired from his position.

He also played with a variety of well-known performing artists, such as the Smothers Brothers, Bobby Vinton, Donnie Brooks and The Drifters as well as every casino in the area. A great honor came to him by way of being chosen to serve a term as assistant grand organist for the Masons of California – a position that took him and his wife, Saralu all over the state.

John is a quiet soul, who prefers to stay in the background – usually at a piano and let his music do the talking.

Ironically, they ended the birthday party with the old Beatles song, “When I’m Sixty-Four”. Many of the residents in attendance were smiling and singing along–perhaps remembering back when they were 64.

 



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.

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The Lady in Red

I had a lovely visit with an old friend the other day. I don’t call her old finishingwellinlife-redbecause she is in her late 90’s, but because we have been friends for a very, very long time.

I asked her what she had been up to, though with Irene, I knew it would have something to do with sewing. The last time I had visited with her, she was busy making handy meal bibs for all the residents in the retirement village she lives in. She explained that she had become known as the lady who could fix anything – a torn seam, a button, hem or repair a worn spot.

From time to time, various neighbors would drop by with whatever garment needed attention, and Irene would go to work like a busy bee and take care of it. She said that sometimes she had a large pile of items, and then sometimes, several days would go by between projects. She explained that she doesn’t charge her neighbors for sewing – it’s a ministry. She feels as if her ability to sew – even to have good eyesight at her age – is a gift from God to share with others.

She always makes me laugh, and this visit was no exception. As always she was beautifully dressed in an outfit that she created.

Her tiny little apartment  is filled with dolls from her doll collection. Irene’s collection is different from any other I have ever come across. Hers are not fancy or expensive but rather they are ‘Rescue Dolls’ that someone has neglected and tossed aside. Over the years, they came to her all grimy, with matted or missing hair and torn clothing. Irene vigorously and lovingly scrubs them down, repairs their hair and creates a special outfit for each one – including booties and a beanie.

Irene loves each one of her dolls, but there is one in her collection finishingwellinlife-90dollthat is her most prized possession. It is a doll her Mother gave her for Christmas when she was seven-years-old. Irene immediately fell in love with her doll. Her sewing talent was developed and blossomed through the tremendous number of outfits she made for the doll over the past ninety years.

Irene’s doll stands as a witness to the beginning of what has become almost a century of sewing and a beautiful testament to a lady who certainly knows how to finish well.



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.

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