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Simple Gifts

This song speaks to me and has ever since I visited a Shaker village with my children years ago. It spoke to Aaron Copeland as well, since he included it in his Appalachian Spring Suite and Ballet. For me, Simple Gifts speaks of earth, of flow, of rhythm. It speaks to me of harvest, because the Shakers were so phenomenal in their agricultural ingenuity. It speaks to me of seasonal changes–turn, turn, bow and bend. “Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free ‘Tis a gift to come down where I ought to be And when…

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Are You Catching It?

No I do not mean COVID, I mean the changing season. Are you feeling a difference in the air temperature? A renewed desire to bake or take a run or hike? Fall is in the air, no matter where you live. It is simply more nuanced in the warmer climates.Here at the McHop MD home we have a third batch of sourdough starter; an on-going eye on putting the garden “to bed”; new tires on order and, believe it or not, some window washing.As we move into autumn, I am reminded of how the seasons’ characteristics are like the stages…

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Just Right

Mike and I just returned from our weekend road trip, this time to purchase a cricket chair. We drove into the foothills of PA to a place called Duncannon, to exchange a few dollars for my soon to be just-right-for-anything chair. As a now five foot tall person, most chairs require lots of pillows, footrests and overall short use. But the cricket chair is just right. Just right memories of childhood, just right fit. Just Right. In our Maximizing Energy support groups, we have been discussing how to be good care partners, and we have come to the conclusion that…

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The Culture of Memory Care

This may not seem to be the time to talk about culture when so much of what we see as culture has migrated to virtual access. But the pandemic has given us a lens to access cultures we may have previously ignored. So, what exactly is culture? One definition defines it as the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.1 Memory care is a particular people and social group whose customs, arts and achievements have proven to be successful for individuals with dementia. Research validates this when the constructs and care of…

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Striving for IDEAL via Support Groups

Being a care partner to an individual with dementia is hard. Each stage has new challenges, and adapting to them is demanding. So, when I read the newest research on living well with dementia, my initial knee-jerk response was “great—it is all back to us—the care partner.” But the truth is, at this point in dementia care, we are the only change agents.  Improving the Dementia Experience and Enhancing Active Life, better none as the IDEAL study, is a longitudinal study looking at ‘living well’ with dementia that is being conducted in the UK that started in 2014 and will…

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Kaleidoscope of Time

Years ago, one of my school-aged children explained the shifting cognition of Granddad as a kaleidoscope. My nine-year-old said, You know mom being with Granddad is a lot like looking through the kaleidoscope. Most of the time you look in and can’t figure it out, but every once a while the light shoots straight through and then it is beautiful. So, I keep looking because you never know. I thought it was an excellent analogy of the shift in cognition we encountered with Granddad. Sometimes he was just as we remembered, aware and on target with his speech but then…

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Where Have All the Flowers Gone. . . Long Time Passing

This song comes to mind as I scan my past memory café themes, and have flashes of shared moments of joy, of memory and of amazing souls who have transitioned out of life with dementia. Making strawberry jam at Park Station with my blue-eyed wonder Jane Prompting a sweet smile from Gail Receiving a wink from Jim and a laugh Bonding over MD crab memories with Dick Basking in the gentlemanly favor of Archie Enjoying the assistance of David, always willing, always agile Enjoying Tom’s flirtatious interpretations and observations Marveling at Sid’s pleasant and polite insistence Listening intently to David’s…

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Of Mice & Men

As we move into a new world with outdoor exercise, masks, and less of our got-to exercises, research is giving us new validation on the value of exercise. Research does not always distinguish a dementia type in a study which allows us to generalize to our lives with dementia. In the case of exercise’s impact on dementia, there really are no down sides whether aerobic and or strength training. Exercise’s impact on dementia is a continually growing field of research with a recent study looking specifically at Parkinson’s Disease and long-term voluntary exercise.1 This eight week study used mice as…

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Brain Connections via Digital Connection

As the CDC continues to promote that older adults are safer at home, those of us caring for an individual with dementia may be finding our routines are suffering from lack of cognitive and social connections. Research specific to dementia care partners is still sparse, but anecdotally we are hearing care partners expressing sadness, anxiety and depression resulting from isolation. Those who had routines that included live memory cafes, social gatherings and even adult day attendance are struggling with the prolonged isolation that has resulted from staying at home as protection from COVID-19. Almost three months in, some of us…

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Dementia Comfort & COVID-19

As a dementia care partner, the global pandemic has created a new set of concerns and stressors.  Referencing the latest research may help guide you as you navigate the new care landscape. Alzheimer’s Disease International1has offered clear and concise guidance on day-to-day approaches in this graphic: These practical tips are helpful, and yet as we continue to practice Safer-at-Home, care partners may be finding their mental health at risk. ADI suggests that we need not only physical protection but also mental and psychosocial. In an overview of China’s efforts in addressing COVID-19’s impact on dementia care, the need for psychological…

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