Baby boomer

The Alzheimer’s Community

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I have been closely involved in matters regarding Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia for eighteen years now: long-term care (LTC) housing, memory care, Alzheimer’s support group facilitator, and Washington State LTC Ombudsman. But it took me becoming a published author of a novel that focuses on a family’s Alzheimer’s disease experience before I finally found my Alzheimer’s community.

AlzAuthors is a group comprised of over 170 published authors (as of this writing) who have published fiction and non-fiction books reflective of their personal Alzheimer’s experience. The six members of the AlzAuthors Management Team (Team) is the Alzheimer’s community about which I speak.

The Team’s motto says it all:

We can sing a lonely song, or form a choir and create harmony.

Without exception, the authors featured on our site and each member of our Management Team had the experience of struggling with the learn-as-you-go-task of caring for someone with cognitive impairment. We all made mistakes, and we learned from them, but we also had successes, and we celebrated them.

As a recent addition to the AlzAuthors Management Team, I became even more convinced that my personal Alzheimer’s community resides within this group. The support, the kindness, the giving nature reflected within the Team is incomparable in my experience, and we are not just keeping it to ourselves. AlzAuthors is spreading their influence into numerous parts of the world…which is kinda why they asked me to join the team as their Global Outreach Coordinator. The six of us know our presence is evident in more countries than just the United States, but our imagination and passion is boundless so we have set out to become a household word in small and large communities throughout the world.

Why AlzAuthors? Because this 100% volunteer group has brought together some of the best books on Alzheimer’s and other dementia in one central location: our bookstore. We’ve categorized those books to make the personal caregivers’ or professionals’ shopping experiences an easy one with categories such as: Caring for Parents or Grandparents, Caring for Spouses or Partners, Living with Dementia, and Children and Teen books, to name a few. We know a caregiver’s “free” time is limited or non-existent, so we’ve done our best to make their shopping experience an easy one. They simply click on the cover of the book they’re interested in and they are taken directly to Amazon to make the paperback, eBook, or audiobook purchase.

We’re working hard so you don’t have to.

And finally, we understand the journey of unpaid (family & friend) caregivers because:

  • We have experienced the loss of a loved one with dementia.
  • We know the pain of being forgotten.
  • We all have witnessed decline.
  • We have provided countless hours of caregiving.
  • We know many others have experienced the same and we believe in the power of sharing those stories.
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Dynamite storybook for seniors with dementia

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I was asked to write a story or two for an anthology of short, short, stories that would be read to seniors with cognitive impairment. I jumped at the opportunity. That anthology, The Mighty Ant, is now available in paperback on Amazon.

I am one of 33 contributors to this collection of short stories for seniors who suffer from dementia and other related memory or cognitive disorders. This book is the culmination of a project from editor and contributor, Jessica Bryan, who is a caregiver and advocate for caregivers. Several years ago she began to notice that her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, lost focus and could no longer read lengthy books. Jessica began reading to her mother and found that simple, short stories were easier for her to understand. The Mighty Ant is filled with these kinds of fiction and non-fiction stories.

The proceeds from the sales of the books will be donated to a local Council on Aging. The generous contributions of authors like myself have come from all over the world. The result is a book with different perspectives, reminiscences, and tales that reflect not only local culture, but a variety of customs, ethnicities, and lifestyles.

I am honored to have my two stories titled, A Neighborly Friendship and A Sweetheart of a Story included in this collection. A Sweetheart of a Story was selected as the final story in the book because the editor felt it was the perfect selection to provide a sweet ending to the anthology. Buy a copy or ten or more for yourself and others…perhaps your local memory care community would love to include the reading of this book to their senior activity schedule! Currently only $12 for this 322-page large print storybook.

 

Baby Boomer Resilience

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How resilient are you?

How readily do you bounce back when you’ve been cut off at the knees?  when you’ve experienced a long streak of bad luck?  when your hopes and dreams are just that: hopes, and dreams?

I am inspired to write this brief piece today because of an extraordinary act of resilience that I witness about this time each year.

Eleven years ago my daughter opened up a bridal party business that was very successful.  She started the business in August 2003 and the Grand Opening of the store occurred in March of that same year.  One of her vendors, a custom jewelry designer, sent her a live plant in celebration of her store’s opening.  The sweet smelling floral plant was appropriately named, Bridal Veil (stephanotis floribunda).

I had the privilege of working at my daughter’s boutique from its inception, and then off and on when she needed extra help with the bridal parties.  Approximately two weeks after her store’s opening, the Bridal Veil plant had come to its seasonal end so I took it home and planted it in my backyard, just underneath my kitchen window, cutting the greenery down to the dirt.  Flower resilienceAnd every year about this time, the Bridal Veil shoots break through the ground and seem to announce, “Spring is back and so am I.”

I am certain that you know people who have exhibited far more heroic and miraculous resilience than this silly plant’s arrival each year – so have I – but I still can’t help but be impressed and pleased, each and every year that it does.  It has survived 100 degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures and 10 degree temps, not to mention a blanket of snow that manages to cover it when the snow starts falling around Washington State.

But each year, it comes back, and each year, I’m still surprised and as pleased as Punch! Definition: feeling great delight or pride.

Many of us would give up at the first degree of scorching heat and we certainly might throw in the towel when the snowflakes start to fly.  I don’t want to be less resilient than the stephanotis floribunda.

Do you?

Baby Boomers remember 11/22/1963

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Please answer the following two questions:

  1. What were you doing when President John F. Kennedy was shot? (West Coast Pacific Time for that was 10:28 a.m.)
  2. What did you feel as a result of his assassination – either right then and there and/or the days and weeks following?
English: John F. Kennedy, photograph in the Ov...
John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was in my 5th grade classroom at St. Bede the Venerable elementary school in La Canada, California, when suddenly, the school’s public address system came on in our classroom, broadcasting what appeared to be an urgent radio message.  The Principal of the school gave no preamble to the radio broadcast, it simply became suddenly audible in our classroom.  When I was able to focus, as a fifth grader, on what was being said, I recall hearing “The President of the United States has been shot; John F. Kennedy was shot during a motorcade in Dallas, Texas and is not expected to live.”  (Or words to that effect.)

My teacher, Sister Mary Fahan told us kids to put our heads down on our desk and pray.  It seemed so startling to me – it was a heavy moment for which us fifth graders didn’t have 100% understanding, but the young boys and girls in my classroom felt the heaviness of the moment anyway.  Many of us were crying at the words coming forth over the speakers in our classroom – urgent and shocking words that stuttered from the radio announcer’s mouth.

School was dismissed and when my sister, Mary, and I were picked up by our mom, we climbed into her red and white 1957 Chevy Bel Air Nomad station wagon and joined our tears and fears with those of our mother’s.

Then for the remainder of November and into early December, it seemed as though the only story being covered on our little black and white (somewhat brown and white) television screen were the news updates and somber funereal activities inherent with the death of a President.

I recall that after I recovered from the initial shock of the incident, the impatience of a nine-year old took over due to the bombardment of constant television coverage that echoed around the walls of our house.  I yearned for normalcy, and for me that meant a return to TV episodes of Lassie reruns and new episodes of My Three Sons.  Perhaps what we experienced during that 1963 tragedy is not unlike what the children of the 9/11 era felt when their lives were invaded by the tragedy that marks their young lives.

Unfortunately, there seem to be enough horrific world events going on that each and every generation’s children will have memories about which they will reflect as they enter their older years; just as us Baby Boomers reflect on November 22, 1963 and all the other tragedies that have invaded our lives since then.

Baby boomers – don’t throw in the towel!

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Baby boomers still rock | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

Ms. Froma Harrop’s Opinion piece, linked above, challenges all of us Baby Boomers to not surrender to the other groups coming up in the generational ranks.

Are you done at 61?  Closing the door at 64?  Barely alive at 75?  Or are you skipping to my Lou at 82?

Come on everyone – don’t throw in the towel!  As Ms. Harrop said in her Opinion piece, “there’s nothing noble about declaring oneself out of the game, whatever the game is.”  I’m not saying that us Baby Boomers and older don’t have age-related changes – of course we do – but that doesn’t mean that nothing remains for us in the years ahead.  In my recent blog article, A surprising fete by a Baby Boomer! I complained about a Florida reporter’s characterization of something that a 55-year old woman was able to accomplish – even at her advanced age.  Click on the link to my article to get the full gist of my whining diatribe.

Circa 1960's; my dad running a marathon in his late 50;s.
Circa 1960’s: my dad running a marathon in his late 50’s.

I am not advocating that you suddenly decide to beat 64-year old Diana Nyad’s swimming record, unless, of course you feel like doing so.  I am advocating, however, that you explore what you’re able to do and capitalize on it.  Start a new business, volunteer for organizations that you support, or just keep working at your current job as long as you still want to.  Who’s stopping you?  My former father-in-law turned 90-years old on September 18, 2013, and he still plays tennis and is still working at his commercial real estate development company.  If Jimmy were to stop working, he’d probably collapse and die on the spot.  Why?  Because he enjoys being active and productive.  So should you.

Don’t let the younger folks – anyone less than 50-years old – have all the fun!  You can have fun too!  I turned 60-years old this past May.  I’ve always been an active person exercise-wise but most of that centered around taking lengthy neighborhood walks and gentle hikes.  My exceptional and persistent daughter, Erin, decided I could do more.  She purchased six sessions of Bar Method classes for each of us and presented it as my birthday/Mother’s Day gift.  “It’ll be fun!  Once you get there, I know you’ll love it.”

My daughter (the Bar Enforcer), me in the middle, and my sister Mary.
My daughter (the Bar Enforcer), me in the middle, and my sister Mary.

Very presumptuous on her part, but she was right!  After six sessions, Erin dropped out (she has other mind-boggling exercises that she does) but I continued with the program.  The biggest lesson that I learned through this process is that I can do more than I thought I could do.  Bar Method is extremely difficult, but it’s not impossible.  After the first six lessons, I was able to conclude that a) it didn’t kill me; b) it didn’t disable me; and c) I kicked ass!  That’s right – I kicked ass.  I am in a class of mostly 20-50 year olds, and I not only keep up, but sometimes I outlast the younger students.  I go to class once a week and two to three additional times a week I exercise to the Bar Method DVDs at home – courtesy of my husband who installed a ballet bar in our exercise room.  Thanks hubby!

If you lack confidence, go find some!  If you’re hesitant to go it alone, find someone else with your same interests, and go for it together.

You are not done yet.  To quote Ms. Harrop, “Every age group brings something to the party.  And for every generation, the party’s not over until it’s over.”

What are you waiting for?  Come join the party!

Finding respite in the 21st century

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Dissecting disconnection: Why I’m taking the week off tech.

Monica Guzman, Seattle Times writer and blogger, is going off the technical grid for a week – thus the article attached above wherein she analyzes our habits and impulses when it comes to us feeling the need to be instantaneously on top of matters.  She’s not disconnecting from all technologies – she intends to watch television and might use a real camera – but she’s staying away from “the ones that know me.”

Ah, respite – what a delightful concept.  Lots of us Baby Boomers equate respite to receiving some sort of relief from our caregiving tasks.  For example, we might be taking care of a parent, sibling, partner, or spouse and we look for every opportunity for a reprieve from our caregiving chores – or at least we should be.  Please see my article Caregiver: put on your oxygen mask first.

Darth Gimp Cordless Phone
Cordless Phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Respite, however, also relates to resisting the compulsion to send someone a Happy Birthday greeting by sending an e-mail, or going to the honoree’s Facebook page, or sending a Tweet on the person’s Twitter feed – and instead, deciding to call that person for a conversation that lasts longer than it takes to type a 140 character greeting.  OMG, MIK?  (Oh my god, am I kidding?)

No – I’m serious.  I could make it harder on you – and myself – by suggesting that we send a birthday card that would require us to purchase, write, post, and drop the card through the slot of a postal box.  I think that would be a great idea, mind you, but that’s not what I’m proposing.

Rejoice in the fact that Facebook reminded you of that person’s birthday.  (I know that you received sufficient notice not to miss that person’s birthday because truth be told – that’s how I remember many of my acquaintances’ birthdays each year.)  But please resist the urge to send an instantaneous electronic greeting.  Think of yourself – I know you can – and think of what it feels like to receive fun mail, such as a birthday card, or simply a “there’s no reason for this card” card.  You liked that feeling – didn’t you?  Now I want you to also think about how it feels when someone calls you to personally wish you happiness – just you and the person that called you.  That’s a one-on-one attention connection.

Drop a note, make a call, but leave the 140 characters for some other important message, like:

I had a glazed doughnut and a cup of coffee for breakfast then washed my hair and can’t do a thing with it! Isn’t that just the worst thing ever?

Go ahead and count – there’s 140 characters there.

Baby steps towards Alzheimer’s diagnosis

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Amyloid Scanning Protocols Fail to Get the Nod from CMS.

I like the above article and every single article that mentions some sort of steps moving towards diagnosis and treatment, even steps that are stunted right out of the block.

Stillness gets us no where.  Although limited, at least this article discusses some progress towards shutting down Alzheimer’s and other dementias.  During a time where very little good news is forthcoming relating to this disease, I’ll take anything – thank you very much.