Enduring the Pause

This season is one of a lot of symbolism in the Judeo-Christian culture. Whether it is saving an empty chair at the Passover Seder for Elijah or the wait between Good Friday and Easter Sunday—there is a pause. As a world we are experiencing a pause, with vague hopes of what will return, trepidation of what will be different. Being in the present is confounded by our internal fears, our impatience and our discomfort with change. As dementia care partners we too have many pauses, whether they are valleys of decline or plateaus of stability—the difficulty lies in staying focused…

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Connecting Through Technology

Social distancing does not have to feel like a jail sentence. But when you are feeling socially isolated and caring for a loved one with dementia, it can certainly feel like it. How can we navigate the changes in both our lives and theirs? Perhaps your loved one enjoyed attending a group, a center, eating out or going to the gym with you. Perhaps you were able to flee the house for a few hours and do self-care things.  Now as we navigate COVID-19, we are called to adapt. Technology can be an asset. If you are intimidated by technology,…

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Springtime Light

As Spring gets closer, we see changes in light. Whether it is Daylight Savings Time and springing forward or a subtle change in trees budding—our world is moving toward more light. As our care partner’s brain changes, we must change to give care. That change can bring up feelings of resentment, anger, guilt, shame, loneliness and depression. Even as the natural world gets brighter, our path may feel full of shadows. Spring light holds a lesson for caregivers.  A gardening resource explains that light comes in colors.1 In Spring, red light provides the energizing chlorophyll to make a plant green….

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Sweetheart Messages

In the season of conversation hearts, a candy that has long represented Valentine’s day, how can we express our love to individuals who are changing as quickly as their brain changes with dementia? Dr. Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages describes how individuals have a primary and secondary love language.1 The five love languages are: Words of Affirmation Quality Time Receiving Gifts Acts of Service Physical Touch As a caregiver you may be able to define your loved one’s primary love language by reflecting on the way they have expressed love in the past. Did your mom give gifts more often…

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Romancing Dementia

Living with dementia results in a lot of changes, particularly in terms of touch. Whether you are a wife, husband, daughter or friend—it becomes difficult to know how best to respond. The use of touch can be very effective. The Functional Assessment Staging Tool is a tool widely used to assess where individuals are in the seven stages of dementia progression.2 This well validated tool shows that as a person’s brain degenerates, they move back in time to younger ages of emotional and cognitive processing. Concepts, skills and emotional connections that were normal as an adult start regressing into adolescent…

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Hindsight & 2020

As we enter 2020, a year that came faster than most of us imagined possible, we can use it as a year to focus on perspective. As caregivers of loved ones with dementia, focus and perspective are often warring elements.  We focus on the changes we are witnessing and often lose sight of the bigger picture. Or get so focused on the long-range that we miss what is right in front of us. When we revert to hind sight we may be able to reflect on early signs that our loved one’s brain was changing.  Perhaps it was an increased…

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Not a Creature was Stirring

Not a Creature Was Stirring “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse . . . 1 As we settle into winter, exercise has become more of a challenge not only because of holiday activities and savory treats but also the shortened days and colder weather. Meanwhile our bodies struggle to adapt to all the extra food, the reduction in sunlight and endorphins.  But research is offering a solution: treadmill exercise. A Japanese study looking at the effect of treadmill exercise on cognitive decline and white matter found that mice who used the treadmill for six weeks had decreased…

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Light in the Darkness

Light in the Darkness Regardless of faith, tradition, or background—winter’s darkness calls for increased light. If you have lived with dementia for any amount of time, you feel the darkness at a different level—wishing for light. A common behavioral manifestation for an individual with dementia is night-time wakefulness.  Usually accompanied by agitation, this behavior leaves dementia caregivers overtired and overwhelmed. Research shows that season and weather significantly affect nocturnal rest for the individual with dementia.1 In this study, the researchers defined nocturnal rest as the five consecutive hours with the least motor activity during a 24-hour day.  Using this criterion,…

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Dementia Abundance

Those two words seem discordant at first glance. Once we have a diagnosis or at least medical recognition of memory changes, we have reality confirmed.  The signs we have been seeing are no longer in our imagination.  Reality stills any allusions you might have that your life will return to normal. Abundance you once had has turned to scarcity.  As Thanksgiving approaches, the theme of gratitude is prevalent.  We think back to holidays past, and savor the memories but find it hard to feel grateful for the present.  Our loved ones may not be able to tolerate the traditions once…

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Exercise as a Gift to Yourself

Exercise as a Gift to Yourself As the days get shorter, you may find your desire to do physical exercise is decreasing as well. Folks have coined Oct 31-Jan 2 as the eating season. So we have less sunlight to encourage exercise, more intake of calories and an uptick on homemade coziness–a trifecta that is known to affect both mental and physical health.  Why not look at exercise as a gift to yourself?  A gift that is given long before the gift-giving season, but that will make that season more enjoyable and you healthier.  Change is in the air, so…

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