Alzheimer’s and other dementia

Life is Precious – Let me Tell You Why

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This post is about anticipatory vs sudden death. I know that doesn’t sound like a very positive post in honor of my sixty-seventh birthday, but this subject matter weighed on my heart the other day so I decided to write about it.

The last time I saw my mother was the 3rd week of August 1994. She died one month later. Mom and Dad visited their adult children during the month of August: my brother and I in the Seattle, WA area, and my sister in Northern California. What a gift that was – the impact of that gift not fully appreciated until Mom was taken from us during her sleep on September 24, 1994 – a life-changing shock to my father who found her, an occasion for us kids to receive the worst news possible by telephone.

The last time I saw my father was October 13, 2007 at his bedside as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease leeched the life from him. When my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years earlier, we knew there was no cure; we had time to prepare for the inevitable, an inevitability accelerated by a cancer that was not operable due to my father’s frail condition resultant from the slow deterioration of his body by Alzheimer’s disease.

Which death was more difficult, the fully unexpected one, or the expected one?

There is no comparison, and by that I mean you cannot compare grief in that manner. Grief is grief and although the shock of my mother’s death was a jolt to our emotional systems, so too was the slow death that occurred for my father. The outcome was the same: someone we all loved no longer existed, but more importantly, we became painfully aware that whether a person is seventy-seven years old when they die, as was our mother, or eighty-nine years old as was my father, life is short.

The child who succumbs to an illness, the teenager killed in an automobile accident, the newly married sweethearts starting out on their journey as a couple, the sixty-something-year-old or centenarian whose days come to an end, all those lives are valuable and their ending won’t always be anticipated.

It may be trite to say live each day as though it were your last, but trite or not, that’s what each of us needs to do. I do so without being morbid about it – rather, I have gotten into the habit of living and loving fully, always respecting and honoring those with whom I come in contact, and spreading kindness and truth wherever I go. Because, as I’ve said: life is precious.

Won’t you join me?

12 years ago seems like yesterday

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Twelve years ago today, my father died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. That morning I had received a call from the memory care unit where Dad had lived for several years. The nursing manager of that unit said if I wanted to see my father again before he died, I should come as soon as possible. (I had spent a week with him the month before and knew that his prostate cancer would most likely hasten his death.) I first called my husband at work to let him know I would find a flight from Seattle, WA to Medford, OR and be gone…for how long? I didn’t know. Then while on the phone with my brother and sister, I booked my flight online with a tentative return, threw the very minimum of clothing in an overnight bag, and headed to SeaTac International Airport.

If you have read my novel, Requiem for the Status Quo, you’ve pretty much read the account of what transpired for me at my father’s bedside; some of the happenings that day/evening were altered, but the gist of what transpired are contained in Chapters 41 & 42.

Upon my return to Seattle, my energy level was depleted yet still on alert. When you have a loved one with a debilitating disease, a state of alertness is the norm – the status quo of constantly being in a state of emergency, if you will. You keep waiting for the phone to ring with the latest development – such as it did for the last time on October 13, 2007 – but that phone number’s appearance on my Caller ID had ceased.

What hadn’t ceased was the business of dying – all the financial and estate matters one cannot ignore – but because of my father’s diligence and organization leading up to his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, much of what I needed to do on behalf of his estate and us survivors, was readily dispatched in the months that followed my father’s death.

But the “now what?” of life post-caregiving was front and center for me. Initially, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with anything having to do with dementia. I continued to financially support my local Alzheimer’s Association and participated in one more Walk to End Alzheimer’s, but that was it. Then my heart called and I became an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator and shortly thereafter, I entered the world of long-term care advocacy by becoming a Washington State LTC ombudsman, both of which I did for five years.

Then my heart spoke to me again, this time it said, “How about writing about your experience as Dad’s caregiver?” I ignored that thought until I no longer could – it wouldn’t leave me alone! I dragged out all of Dad’s records and my numerous journals, sat at my dining table, and over many months’ time, outlined how I would honor my father’s journey and my family’s experience within the pages of a book that might benefit others.

That was five years after my father’s death. My book was published five years later.

Now twelve years after the end of my father’s Alzheimer’s journey,

my book still manages to make its way into the hands of those who need it.

If you, or someone you know, needs encouragement and a renewed sense of hope,

please make your way to your favorite bookstore, or find it right here.

Blessings to you today, and always.

My extraordinary success as an author

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A lot of time and effort go into writing a book. Regardless of the genre, much needs to take place prior to that work of art arriving in the public’s eye to be consumed. The writing process is grueling: outlining; picking character names – developing those characters to become who you need them to be, killing off characters that don’t add anything to the storyline or content; researching anything and everything having to do with absolutely every topic you decided to include within the front and back covers of your project; pounding out page after page of your shitty first draft – because every first draft is shitty; editing, cutting and pasting, throwing out your manuscript and then retrieving it from the garbage because you can’t bear to give up on something that initially seemed to mean so much to you.

But the preparation for my novel began years before I knew I would even be writing it.

My life changed forever when my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Up until that point, AD was something that happened to other people. Just like everyone else, I was afraid of it – had friends whose parents or other loved ones were diagnosed with it – but just like everyone else, I really and truly did not think it could get close enough to harm me, but it did. You see, I had hoped my professional work in the assisted living and memory care field would be as close as I would ever get to the dreaded disease that is always fatal, but I was wrong.

As my author bio states: Having previously worked in memory care, she was not new to the disease, nor was her family immune.

Years after my father’s death I chose to prolong my involvement with all things dementia, venturing forth into one of the most competitive fields around because it appears that everyone … everyone … has a story to tell, and many have chosen to tell it. With well over 8 million books currently available on Amazon and just a fraction of those touted as Best Sellers, a person would be crazy to even think about adding to those numbers!

Or that person would be brave.

Bravery sounded better than crazy to me, knowing that putting myself out there would leave me vulnerable, exposed before every critic who, although a reader and not an author, would not shy away from tearing apart my completed labor of love. But I wanted something positive to result from my father’s and my family’s Alzheimer’s experience so rather than shying away from risking failure, you know, doing nothing that might prove disheartening, I chose to lay my heart out on the line.

And I am a success.

I am a success, not because Requiem for the status quo made it to Oprah’s book club and/or the New York Times’ Annual Top Books list, and certainly not because of any wealth publishing a novel has brought me…relatively few authors make money in this field. I am a success because I let my love for my father be translated into a novel, creatively based on my own family’s experience, so that others – whether a million in number or just a thousand – could find some encouragement and hope through the ashes of my family’s grief.

And guess what, others read my story and told me time and again how much it resonated with them; how my writing seemed to mirror what they too went through, or were currently going through. Readers thanked me for my story … they thanked me! If that isn’t success, then I don’t know what is.

All I can say is, “You’re very welcome.”

 

 

This Week’s Good News!

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Wow! Talk about making lemonade out of lemons! Joe Bahr suffered the loss of his brother, Marty, to Alzheimer’s disease. Joe and Marty made a deal before Marty passed on. Check out here what that deal entailed. What a legacy Marty left for the rest of us!

This Week’s Good News

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This week’s Good News story focuses on a commercial venture that offers a highly-discounted Caribbean cruise for Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers. (This is not a commercial for the cruise, rather, it’s a celebration of efforts to lighten the load of those on the dementia path that currently is approaching more than 50 million worldwide.) If you have ever traveled with someone with cognitive impairment, you know first-hand how difficult it can be to keep that someone engaged in activities that meet the impaired person’s needs. I am familiar with family members who have lost their loved one in an airport because of the unpredictability of a person’s behavior. Several years ago I flew in an airplane from Washington’s Dulles International airport to Seattle, seated two rows behind a woman who, quite frankly, should not have been traveling by herself, a person who could not sit still in her airplane seat, roaming down the middle aisle in an attempt to leave the airplane. As stressful as that was for the passengers, that stress doesn’t come close to the anxiety and stress experienced by the traveler who had no understanding of where she was, and no understanding of why she couldn’t simply leave the confines of the tubular travel vehicle. Alzheimer’s “exit-seeking behavior” at 35,000 feet is my October 2012 post that describes this harrowing experience.

But here’s the good news, the above Caribbean cruise – scheduled for April 2019 – is geared to the needs of both the person with dementia and her or his friendly caregiver. The staff and crew are trained to provide an optimal experience for one and all. Times of respite will be offered for the weary caregiver and adult day activities will be offered in abundance for the passenger with early-stage Alzheimer’s or similar dementia.

Now, if that isn’t good news, I don’t know what is.

Rewarding Alzheimer’s family caregivers

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November is National Caregiver Appreciation Month, a time to recognize the long hours, sacrifice, and love all caregivers bring to the task of caring for a loved one with dementia or any long-term illness. In honor of their efforts, AlzAuthors is hosting an eBook sale and giveaway! This is a terrific way for caregivers who are looking for knowledge, guidance, and support to find carefully vetted books to help guide and inspire them every day.care

Consider this information from the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • In 2016, 15.9 million family and friends provided 18.2 billion hours of unpaid assistance to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, a contribution to the nation valued at $230.1 billion.
  • Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women, and 34 percent are age 65 or older.
  • 41 percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.
  • Approximately one-quarter of dementia caregivers are “sandwich generation” caregivers — meaning that they care not only for an aging parent, but also for children under age 18.

Starting today through November 21st, you can take advantage of this excellent opportunity to check out some of our books at reduced prices, ranging from free to $2.99. We offer a variety of genres, including fiction, memoir, non-fiction, and children’s literature. Many of our books are also available in paperback and audio, so be sure to check them out too. As a matter of fact, my novel is available on Kindle for just $2.99 through November 21st and if you prefer a paperback copy, my publisher is offering it at half price on my publisher’s site. Check it outhere!

All books on the AlzAuthors website are written from a deep place of understanding, experience, knowledge, and love. May you find one – or two, or more! – to help guide you on your own dementia journey.
 
Click on this link, that takes you to the promo post on the AlzAuthors website, and then click on the individual book covers to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Release day for Requiem for the status quo

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Today is release day for my debut novel.

My horoscope that day

On December 29, 2012, I first sat down to write that novel.

On the day of the fifth anniversary of my father’s October 13, 2007 death, I decided to write a novel inspired by my caregiving experiences as his Alzheimer’s care manager. I was certain novel writing would be a huge undertaking because up to that point, I had never written fiction. Because of the enormity of said project, I figured I would wait until the beginning of the following year – you know, a fresh start and all.

But the universe had other plans. My December 29, 2012 horoscope was what the universe used as the catalyst to get my attention. More than that, it shocked me into action. The horoscope so alarmed me, I cut it out of the newspaper, typed it out in large font, and after writing my novel’s very first page, I framed all three to memorialize the outstanding coincidence of what my Taurus-scope said. Here, for your enlightenment, is its wording:

Now’s perfect to start a new writing project; no need to wait until next year. Put down your thoughts without worrying about form, one word at a time.

I showed the horoscope to my husband and if it at all possible, he was more shocked than I at the horoscope’s content. He left me alone the remainder of the day, knowing the horoscope meant business, and so did I. I closed the door to my office, sat at my computer and started typing.

I didn’t know what I was doing. As I mentioned earlier, I had never written fiction. At that point, my personal blog, Living: the ultimate team sport was filled with 100s of non-fiction pieces, most of which centered around aging, long-term care, as well as numerous posts about Alzheimer’s disease, other dementia, and the caregiving struggles faced by families. But to write prose – with dialogue!!!!! – was beyond my skill set, and remained to be for quite some time.

The short of the long of it is that Requiem for the status quo was not the first title for the novel, there were many, the first being Have we met? Aren’t you glad I changed it to its current one? Not only were several titles tried on but my magnum opus went through many rewrites, most notably and importantly, the first draft contained a whopping total of 140,000 words. You see, I had a lot to say and I just kept typing until I had nothing more to add.

That’s an excellent way to get thoughts down on paper, but the first draft is by no means the final product that is pitched to agents and publishers. My now published novel is less than 68,000 words. Yes, lots of cutting and slashing took place over the years, to the point where not only am I proud of the finished product, but a publisher is also proud of it, Black Rose Writing.

I will close this post by providing glimpses of my father to you over the years. I hope you enjoy this montage that includes, from top left: My mother and father’s wedding day, 1947; my wedding day 2000 (my favorite photo of my dad and I); and the Desonier family circa 1971.

Reader discoveries

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To celebrate my novel’s release, I held a giveaway on a Facebook readers group, A Novel Bee, and made some extraordinary reader discoveries.

I gave the members of that group 24 hours to leave a comment on my giveaway announcement if they wanted to be entered into my contest to pick one lucky (hopefully lucky) reader to receive a complimentary copy of my novel, Requiem for the status quo.

I received 37 entries, and a considerable percentage of those readers’ entries made mention of their own personal Alzheimer’s/dementia caregiving journey. Here are just a few of those comments:

  • I am a geriatric care manager, can’t wait to read it!
  • My friend just had to put her mom into a caregiving rest home because she could no longer handle her. She was becoming quite violent. It is a horrendous disease.
  • I love that you are writing inspiring stories! Many of us are or were caregivers and the hopelessness we feel when we dont see them getting better can be overwhelming. Your compassion is so sweet and much needed in todays world. Im really excited to find a new author I can enjoy!
  • I would be honored to read this book, my father had Alzheimer’s disease. I want to tell you that the cover is totally amazing !!!!!
  • I would love to win. My husband has Alzheimer’s/ dementia so it is if special interest to me.

Even as familiar as I am with the statistics for this disease – 44 million diagnosed worldwide as of this writing – it still astounds me to hear the personal stories associated with it. Like every terminal disease known to man, Alzheimer’s and other dementia are very personal diseases. The brain – the very essence of a person’s being – is the initial body part affected. What we say, how we behave, and who we are resides in the various, vital parts of our brain. Our brain is the grand traffic director of all things me.

It’s no wonder the very long goodbye associated with this disease is so devastating to the one diagnosed, as well as for the one caring for her or him. It’s very personal, isn’t it?

I am of the belief that family dementia caregivers are 21st century heroes. Additionally, all caregivers, not just those on a dementia caregiving journey are the best of the best. They are:

Ordinary people, doing the ordinary right thing, at an extraordinary time.

I am honored to be in your company.

Requiem for the status quo will be released by Black Rose Writing on July 20th. You can order Requiem at Barnes & Noble and Amazon as well as all online and brick and mortar chain and independent bookstores. Be sure to shop around for the best price, you won’t be sorry you did. And for those of you with eReaders, the eBook will be available at most online book retailers on, or about, July 27th.

 

Support for my readers

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I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my “book tour” may look more like a senior center tour than a literary one. The reason: I want to reach those who could use a bit of what I have to offer. As my Author Bio states, I want to make a difference in the lives of others by writing novels that encourage those who just might need another cheerleader in their corner. At the bottom of each of my site’s pages is a section titled READERS CORNER. Each week I provide a new element of encouragement as my simple way of standing in my readers’ corner.

Yesterday I witnessed one small way in which someone was reached by my novel.

I had a haircut appointment with my wonderful stylist, Molly, of C.J. Salon. Molly has followed my entire publishing journey and is very familiar with the topic of my soon to be published novel, Requiem for the status quo. She finished up with her previous client and welcomed me into her chair. I did the reveal of my published novel which I had brought with me for a much anticipated Show and Tell moment. I also gave her several copies of my marketing brochure that provides a peek into the storyline and the lives of the characters. “Please hand them out to women who could possibly benefit from reading my novel.”

She grabbed one of the brochures, said, “I’ll be right back” and ran out into the parking lot to flag down her previous client. Turns out this client is fully-involved in a family member’s dementia journey and Molly felt she could benefit from reading my book. Turns out she was right. Her client was so excited, she hugged Molly and basically said, “This is what I’ve been looking for!”

That, my friends, was the highlight of my week – someone who wanted what I had to offer and just might benefit from the read. But you wanna know something else? My appointment was initially scheduled for 3 pm. The day before I found out I had a change of plans for my Friday, freeing up my morning, so I called C.J. Salon, asked if they had an earlier opening, and I grabbed it.

Molly’s client benefited from my change of plans – a change that initially was upsetting to me, but turned out to be just what was supposed to happen.

My oh my, I love how the Universe cooperates when its occupants are just going about their lives, oblivious to its whiles!

In less than two weeks, Requiem for the status quo will be released. It is currently available for preorder at Black Rose Writing; enter discount code PREORDER2017 before July 20th for a 10% discount. You can also preorder Requiem at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Be sure to shop around for the best price, you won’t be sorry you did. And for those of you with eReaders, the eBook will be available at most online book retailers on, or about, July 27th.

My Alzheimer’s family caregiving journey

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My dad, circa 1980s

I had the privilege of being my father’s caregiver during his multi-year struggle with Alzheimer’s disease that ended with his death in 2007. Five years after his death, I started writing my debut novel, Requiem for the status quo, to be released by an independent publisher, Black Rose Writing, on July 20th. And now five years since I started my novel, Requiem will be available to everyone in less than 30 days. My debut novel was inspired by my father’s and my caregiving journey and is dedicated to the man whose later years was robbed by a disease that is always fatal. The book’s dedication reads: Dedicated to my father, Don Patrick Desonier, who wore his disease with the dignity it did not deserve.

I am in the very distinct and healthy position of understanding that realistically, as a debut author I cannot hope to be an instant and resounding financial success. But that’s okay, because for me it has never been about the money, but very much about helping those who are experiencing or have experienced an Alzheimer’s caregiving journey similar to mine. For that reason, most of my “book tour” will encompass senior centers in the region, as well as senior living residential communities where I hope to hold readings and sell my novel to seniors at a highly-discounted price. I know it is said that when trying to fill an auditorium, it’s all about getting butts in seats, but for me, it’s about getting books into laps.

And that’s what I’m going to do.

Requiem for the status quo is currently available for preorder at Black Rose Writing, enter discount code PREORDER2017 before July 20th for a 10% discount. You can also preorder Requiem at Barnes & Noble right now, and Amazon will be providing preorder opportunities in the days ahead. And for those of you with eReaders, the eBook will be available at most online book retailers on, or about, July 27th.

 

Why I Volunteer for Research, Part I

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In this particular instance, the thought of being a human guinea pig feels very, very comforting. Being able to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s that goes beyond monetary contributions sets up a legacy for many as a result of Ms. Hedreen’s extraordinary efforts.  Ann Hedreen’s book is available on Amazon and at most retailers.

ALZWA BLOG

by Ann Hedreen

Ann Hedreen author photo copy

Here are two of the many things that scare me: having to change a tire all by myself (because I’ve never done it) and camping in bear country (because I have). Here are two of the few things that don’t scare me: taking pop quizzes and getting poked with needles. These slim categories of fearlessness make me a natural volunteer for Alzheimer’s research.

My mother grew up in Montana and nothing much scared her. She not only changed tires, she put chains on tires by herself, tying them together with shoelaces if they didn’t fit right, lying under the car in a snow storm. As for camping, after a twenty-year hiatus, she decided to try it again—solo, with four children in tow. We didn’t see any bears. The worst thing that happened was that we forgot spoons for our cereal. The best thing was being with Mom…

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Welcome to the year 2015!

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2015 New Years

If you’re like me, you’re wondering how another year has slipped by so quickly.  I’m sure there were a few of the 52 weeks that seemed to slog by, but all in all we can now look back and marvel at what we accomplished, or what others accomplished in our stead, during the past 365 days.

An accomplishment with which I’m happy is having authored this blog for the past three and a half years.  I’ve provided this blog for you, but I’ve also provided it for me because I truly enjoy having the opportunity to share my experiences and my viewpoints; I hope in the process that I have encouraged, helped, and entertained you.  From the start of Baby Boomers and More in 2011 to the end of 2014, I posted 520 articles.  I’d be a very happy blogger if the quality of those articles surpassed the quantity because if I’m just talking into thin air without benefit to others, its hardly worth the space my blog occupies.

Here are links to the five most visited articles in the year 2014 based on WordPress statistics:
Read the rest of this entry »

Do you believe in magic?

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Horoscope chartMy December 29, 2012 Horoscope:

Today is a 7.  Now’s perfect to start a new writing project; no need to wait until next year.  Put down your thoughts without worrying about form, one word at a time.

Prior to 12/29/2012 I would have stood by my belief that Horoscopes are merely faulty predictions by faulty people provided to those of us who are humored by such baseless declarations of personalized present and future outcomes.

But that personalized declaration for Irene on a day in late December 2012 was right on the money.

Computer stationThe backstory: During the summer of 2012 I made the decision to write a novel that focuses on the lives of caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementia.  The focus would be split with equal attention spent on the person with the disease.  My book’s mission: to put a personal face on those every day people (that’s you and me) thrust onto the memory-removing disease journey.  Once I made the decision to write a book, I set January 1, 2013 as the start date for my project.

That start date was moved up based on the extremely accurate Horoscope (see above) for this wannabe author whose birthday fell under the sign of the bull: Taurus.

I obeyed the directive and sat at my computer that very day and managed to write page after page of content.  Wow!  I’m writing a novel!  It was quite exhilarating being able to spew page after page of fictional story line based on experiences I had with my father, my sister-in-law, and the many people with whom I became acquainted during my years of work with vulnerable adults.

I finished the “final” version of my manuscript earlier this month and set the timeline for next steps: starting January 1, 2015 I will actively seek representation for my novel.  Oddly enough, that seems to jive with today’s Horoscope (2 years after the first timely Horoscope) if you force a few of the jigsaw puzzle pieces to fit what’s currently going on in my life.

My December 29, 2014 Horoscope:

Today is a 6.  Hide away somewhere peaceful and you can get some productive thinking in.  Inspire intuitive leaps.  Creative work pays well now.  Don’t squander an enticing opportunity.  Meditate on it, and your choice comes to you.  Nurture your physical health with exercise, good food and rest.

Glass Now TAMI guess I may as well get to it based on previous personal declarations that brought me to this stage of my writing career.  Seriously, why wait when I can do it now?

If you’re interested in how this all pans out for me, I hope you’ll Follow my blog for updates.  If you’re already a Follower, stay tuned for more predictions and/or fabulous outcomes.

 

 

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

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Very Inspiring Blogger AwardHumbled, grateful, overjoyed!  Not just because I was nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, but also because I’ve inspired someone, hopefully many someones.  Talking to a wall is not a very gratifying experience; if my blog is merely an electronic version of that, I will have not reached my objective: to help, encourage, and lighten your load while on this aging journey.  Thank you Kay for the nomination!

Kay Bransford of Dealing with Dementia nominated me for this award.  If any of you readers have yet to follow Kay’s blog you need to get to it.  I will nominate several bloggers for the same award, following the Rules provided below:

  • Thank the amazing person who nominated you and provide a link to their website;
  • List the rules and display the award;
  • Share seven facts about yourself;
  • Nominate 15 other blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they’ve been nominated.  I failed at listing 15, not because the blogs I follow aren’t worthy, but because my blog-following count is a limited one;
  • Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

Seven facts about myself:

1.  I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a Baby Boomer and have been for awhile.  Turning sixty was easy, however it got a wee bit more difficult at sixty-one …

2.  I was born in Pasadena, California and have lived a great length of time in Los Angeles, California; Honolulu, Hawaii; Anchorage, Alaska, and the greater Seattle area of Washington State – my current and final home.

3.  My favorite people – other than my loved ones – are anyone older than me – preferably senior citizens who’ve claimed that title for quite some time.  This third fact about me directed most of my worthwhile adult career and volunteer pursuits: senior housing industry manager, Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator, and Certified Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman for the State of Washington.

4.  I have posted over 480 articles on my blog since starting it in 2011.

5.  I am currently writing a novel that focuses on the caregiving challenges faced by those who are the primary caregiver for a loved one.  Through real-life stories, the reader will learn more about the disease and its effect on everyone it touches.  My hope is that by putting a face on this disease – showing what it looks like in everyday life – more interest will be generated to prevent, treat, and cure Alzheimer’s disease, a disease that is always fatal, and for which all of us are at risk.

6.  I have three daughters (one of my own and two of my husband’s) and two sons-in-law (one who married my own daughter and one who married my husband’s youngest.)

7.  My family tree: I have two siblings, an older brother and sister.  My father died from Alzheimer’s complications in October 2007 at the age of 89; my sister-in-law died of the disease in the summer of 2012 a few months before her 70th birthday9.

And that’s why I do what I do.

Nominees for Very Inspiring Blogger Award:

Mary Riesche Studios, Vacaville, California.  This artist has drawn and painted since she could hold a pencil.  She has tirelessly pursued her craft through every chapter of her life.  She raised four children while her husband was in the military – living numerous places in Europe and the U.S. as a result – and that never stopped her from painting.  When her four children were out of the house, she and her husband adopted a teenager from Russia, bringing the number of children to five.  She’s a trooper, to say the least.  It took her a while to have an empty nest.  I hope you’ll visit her site to see a representation of the type of work she produces.

Catching Up to the Disease, by blogger, Don Desonier.  The subtitle for this blog is Transitions in Dementia Caregiving.  Don’s wife died of early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 69 on July 4th, 2012.  This blogger knows something about being a dedicated, committed caregiver, and on top of that, he excelled at being the very present advocate for his wife of 25 years.

Dementia Poetry is an in your face journal of a daughter-in-law’s disease journey with her mother-in-law, in the form of extremely well-written poems.  The subtitle for her blog is: The Politically Incorrect Alzheimer’s Poetry Blog.

Theresa Hupp’s blog, Story and History, is a moving journal of a family’s life covering past, present, and future.  But that’s not all: Theresa is a fabulous, published author.  I’d say I’m jealous, but friends, and that’s what I consider Theresa, don’t turn green with envy – at least they shouldn’t.  Theresa, you nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award in February of 2014, but I already received that award a couple years ago so I’m not going to claim it again, but I thank you profusely for nominating me.

Not My Original Plan, a blog written by a woman in her thirties who is the caregiver for her mother who has dementia.  This is a very inspirational blog – how fitting for this award! – and I strongly suggest you check it out and follow it ASAP.

Not Quite Old, by blogger and author, Nancy Roman.  The subtitle for her blog is Gracefully Aging with Resistance.  The way Nancy writes – filled with extraordinary humor, will keep you engaged and wanting more.

Let’s Talk About Family.  Lori’s blog family history starts with her mother’s failing health and death, and continues with her father’s life as a widower who eventually moves into an assisted living facility (ALF).  Her blog is one that I never miss.  You know how you can manage the notifications you receive so that you get a notification e-mail immediately, daily, or once weekly?  Her blog is one of those that I receive immediate notifications – I can’t wait any longer! is the way I treat her blog.  If you are not yet following Lori’s blog, get to it!

Jill Weatherholt, Pursuing a Passion for Writing, is a site that inspires me because while working full-time, she’s still committed to writing and what she writes is well-worth reading.  Thank you, Jill, for being an online inspiration to this aspiring author.  Jill started the blog to create a community for other new writers and shares her publication journey – something all wet-behind-the-ears writers need to read and be encouraged by.

10 Legs in the Kitchen is a fabulous cooking blog but a whole lot more. Stacy’s anecdotes add “meat” to every posting and provide humor and insight, not just darn good recipes.  I met Stacy at a writer’s workshop in Seattle.

Yellow Mum Blog, by Wendy in the United Kingdom, documents the loss of her mother to cancer, ten weeks after diagnosis.  What she writes is a journal, but in many respects, it is a guidebook for the rest of us in our grief.

A Swift Current, Letting our Parents Go, Hallie Swift’s blog is one to which  many will relate.  Whether your parent’s departure is a gradual one – such as is the case with Hallie’s mother due to dementia – or a sudden departure by way of a fatal accident, letting go is hard to do – oftentimes more painful that we believe we can handle.

 

Is your doctor an enabler?

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Certain anti-anxiety drugs may raise Alzheimer’s risk in elderly | Nation & World | The Seattle Times.

STOP signConsider the prescriptions in your medicine cabinet/pill-minder box.  Is one of those medications something that your doctor renews over and over again for you?  How about that something-or-other that seems innocuous enough because you take the lowest possible dose?

Are you like many of us out there who struggle to fall asleep?  The anxiety of worrying about whether or not you’re going to fall asleep being a sufficient reason for your doctor to prescribe a benzodiazepine to help you along the way?  When did you first tell your doctor about your sleep struggles and how many months or years have passed since he or she prescribed a measly dose of Ativan, Valium, Xanax or Klonopin?

Each time the refill runs out and you call your doctor to renew the prescription, does she do so, even without meeting with you in person to discern whether or not it’s still needed?  Your doctor is an enabler.

Your doctor might be putting you at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  That itsy bitsy dosage you take nightly for months and years on end?  It’s not a harmless prescription if it gives you a fatal disease – which Alzheimer’s is.

Now that you’re aware of the risk, make sure your doctor is aware and don’t let him or her poo poo that risk; instead, ask her to wean you off that medication so that you can have control over this one potential cause of developing a disease that you absolutely do not want to get.

You’re in charge, not your doctor.  Don’t assume that her constant renewal of such medication means it’s okay.  You’re an informed patient now; it’s time you took steps to remove this Alzheimer’s risk from your life.

Blogging Award: a very tardy response

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First-Best-Moment-Award-WinnerDid you ever get so busy that you received an award and didn’t go pick it up, and then you forgot that it was waiting for you?  That’s me.  Lori, one of my most favorite bloggers, has been writing her blog Let’s Talk About Family since December 2011.  This fabulous person nominated me for the Best Moment Award in May of 2013.  All I can say is that not “picking up” my award qualifies me for the Worst Moment Award, but I’ll try to make up for it with this post.

Lori’s blog family history starts with her mother’s failing health and death, and continues with her father’s life as a widower who eventually moves into an assisted living facility (ALF).  Her blog is one that I never miss.  You know how you can manage the notifications you receive so that you get a notification e-mail immediately, daily, or once weekly?  Her blog is one of those that I receive immediate notifications – I can’t wait any longer! is the way I treat her blog.  Thank you so much for opening up your life to us in the blogging world.

Rules for the Best Moment Award:

Winners post information about the nomination, thanking the person who nominated them, with their acceptance speech that can be written down or video recorded.

Winners have the privilege of awarding the next awardees (see below) The re-post should include a NEW list of people, blogs worthy of the award, and winners notify them the great news.  Winners should also post the award badge on their own website.

What makes a good acceptance speech?
Thank the people who helped you along the way, be humorous if you can to keep the reader entertained and smiling.  Provide inspiration that helps your story to touch the lives of others.

And here’s mine: I’m thrilled to be acknowledged as having something good to say from time to time.  I don’t think I’m an excellent writer, but I do have lots to say and I’m quite willing to write up a storm.  I’m the youngest of three siblings and the only one of us who has been involved in the lives of senior citizens – and everything that involvement implies – for close to two decades.  I’ve always loved people older than me; I guess it gives me comfort knowing that I’m younger than someone else.  My official responsibilities over the years involved: working in the senior housing industry both in the corporate environment and in assisted living/memory care facilities, being an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator, and a Certified Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman for the State of Washington (an advocate for vulnerable adults living in LTC facilities.)  I’m retired from active work but I am actively still involved in being an advocate for the vulnerable by writing my first novel – a project I hope to complete by end of this year.  My novel focuses on the lives of family members who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

My nominees for the Best Moment Award are:

Kay Bransford, for Dealing with Dementia.  The reason I enjoy Kay’s blog is best described by her blog’s subtitle: A family caregiver’s journey to deliver loving care with grace and humor.  We all know there is absolutely nothing humorous about Alzheimer’s or other dementia, but humor can be found in the human interactions between caregiver and family member.  If you look for them,  you will find them.  Kay, I’ll be posting my acceptance of a different award you recently nominated me for very soon.  THANK YOU!

Dementia Poetry is an in your face journal of a daughter-in-law’s disease journey with her mother-in-law, in the form of extremely well-written poems.  The subtitle for her blog is: The Politically Incorrect Alzheimer’s Poetry Blog.

Theresa Hupp’s blog, Story and History, is a moving journal of a family’s life covering past, present, and future.  But that’s not all: Theresa is a fabulous, published author.  I’d say I’m jealous, but friends, and that’s what I consider Theresa, don’t turn green with envy – at least they shouldn’t.  Theresa, you nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award in February of 2014, but I already received that award a couple years ago so I’m not going to claim it again, but I thank you profusely for nominating me.

Reflections on Dementia, Caregiving and Life in General is a must-read blog all the way from Singapore.  This blogger takes care of her mother who has Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.  Her insights and her view of her world will engage you from the very first posting you read.

 

 

Helping an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

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Want To Help Someone Who Is an Alzheimer’s Caregiver? Here Are Some Tips.

Attached is a very worthwhile read by blogger, Kathie Ritchie.  The article includes her suggestions as well as those of caregiver adviser, Marie Marley.  (Note: the links provided for Marie Marley appear to be broken, but Kathie includes Ms. Marley’s input within the body of her own blog article, making the content easily readable.)

Painting courtesy of Mary Riesche Studios
Painting courtesy of Mary Riesche Studios

Additional articles that will provide information and suggestions to non-caregivers on how they can help their neighbor, co-worker, besieged family member:

The above will give you more than enough material to provide readers with helpful suggestions.  If you don’t take the time to read the attached articles – and I sincerely hope you do – I’ll leave you with one suggestion that I hope you do follow:

If a caregiver doesn’t ask  for help while on his or her caregiving journey, don’t assume they aren’t in need of your assistance.  Offer specific assistance to them; don’t force them to come up with a suggestion on how you can help. 

Examples: “I have some individual frozen leftover meals I’d like to bring over for your household, what’s a good time for me to drop them off?” or “I’m headed to the grocery store, what can I pick up for you?”  or “It may sound crazy, but I enjoy working in the yard.  I’ve completed my Spring yard cleanup, I’d like to come over and help you with yours.”

Like Nike says, “Just do it!”

Driving Under the Influence of Dementia: Part 2

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STOP signI addressed some of the issues of Driving under the influence of dementia in an article I wrote in November 2013.  Back then I hadn’t planned on writing a Part 2 for this article, but after a couple local incidents involving DUI of dementia, I must provide the following.

Yesterday afternoon in a suburb of Seattle (in Bellevue), an 89-year old woman with early stage Alzheimer’s left her house for her normal daily routine of going to her favorite pancake house, then to several retail locations.  She never returned home last night and as of today, she is still considered missing.  I hope the outcome of her case is better than that of another elderly person with Alzheimer’s who also went on a brief errand, but never came home.  (Update as of 12/28/13 6:45 pm: this woman was found safe approximately 16 hours after she first left her home.  She was found 20 miles away from home.  Unfortunately, she wandered 20 miles away from her normal driving area.)

On Saturday, December 21, 2013, Joseph Douret left his Seattle area home (in Issaquah), to grab dinner.  He was reported missing the next day by his wife who stated that he never came home the previous evening when he left to grab some dinner for the two of them.  Mr. Douret, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, was found dead in his vehicle on Christmas Eve.  Police indicated that he appeared to have died of natural causes.

Taking away the keys to a vehicle – or getting rid of the vehicle as need be – are both very difficult tasks, but these are tasks that must take place if a loved one with dementia still has access to their automobile.  “But he/she is only driving a few blocks to pick up a couple items; there’s no way he/she will get lost.”  Unfortunately, what should be a routine drive can become a death journey because nothing is routine for the person with a brain addled by dementia.  Nothing looks normal or familiar;  the anxiety ratchets up several notches; panic sets in; and the countdown begins for that person’s last hours of life on earth.  Even if the person is eventually found safe, he or she will have endured a very uncomfortable time emotionally and physically.  The positive outcome of that incident, however, is that it will most likely be the catalyst that spurs people on to remove all driving options from their loved one.

Please make the decision today to take action and do the responsible thing on behalf of the person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

Mom and her flying purse!

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Mom and her flying purse! #EndALZ.

This Blogger, Richard Kenny, really has a way with words as he describes the challenges – and sometimes the joys – of his caregiving role as a son to his mother who has Alzheimer’s and to his father who struggles to be the spouse of a wife with Alzheimer’s.

Very much worth the read – and I don’t just mean this one article.  Many of Richard Kenny’s observations and musings so clearly reflect his day-t0-day frustrations as well as his somewhat new found ability to adapt to every unforeseen circumstance.

Diary of a Singaporean Cabby: An Old Lady with Dementia & Dignity.

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Diary of a Singaporean Cabby: An Old Lady with Dementia & Dignity.

The attached link, written by a blogger in Singapore, describes his experience as a cab driver when he picked up a woman with dementia who needed to get from Point A to Point B but who lacked the cognitive capacity to effectively do so.

Personally, I think he excelled at compassion and even though he feels he could have done more, I respect him for what he did do.  We don’t want to entertain the thought of someone who might have taken advantage of this woman but there are many who would have looked at this situation as an opportunity to exploit her vulnerability.

I congratulate you, Lim James, for showing all of us that goodness exists, and it exists in your soul.

World Alzheimer’s Day.

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World Alzheimer’s Day video:

The above video is amazingly dramatic and not just because it’s so well done and the music is so compelling.  It’s dramatic because it speaks of facts about Alzheimer’s and other dementia that are hard to wrap your mind around.

Here’s one fact I’ll provide, and then I encourage you to watch this two minute video to increase your awareness of this insidious disease.

The Fact: there are 15 million caregivers currently living in America.  If caregivers were the only residents in one of the states in the United States, they would completely populate the state of Illinois – the 5th largest state in the country.

Awareness is key – pass this link on to others so that greater attention is placed on this disease that is the ONLY cause of death among the top 10 causes of death in America without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression.