February 2014 | Issue 34
Come Back Early Today is a book that will touch you.
It will make you laugh. It will make you cry.
If you’re caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s
It will give you information and advice, but mostly
It will give you hope.
Solving Caregiver Problems: In the course of narrating this remarkable love story, the award-winning Come Back Early Today illustrates solutions to 14 different Alzheimer’s caregiving problems. It deals with everything from denial, diagnosis and difficult behaviors to nursing home and hospice care.
Welcome to Help for Dedicated Caregivers, a monthly newsletter that contains helpful information for caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Please go to www.ComeBackEarlyToday.com to find other caregiver resources, buy the book or sign up for this newsletter. You can also buy the book on Amazon.
In This Edition:
- People With Alzheimer's May Still "Be There"
- 5 Mistakes I Made When Visiting "My Ladies" With Alzheimer's
- Puppy's Magical Visit to a Memory Care Facility
People With Alzheimer’s May Still “Be There”
There was a lady with Alzheimer’s I volunteered to visit once a week at a local memory care facility. I’m going to call her Carolyn. Before my first visit the administrator told me she loved Elvis. So I bought an Elvis CD and took it, along with my portable CD player, to the visit.
After introducing myself I said, “I understand you love Elvis.”
“Elvis?” she asked with disbelief. “Where’d they get that?”
“Well, what kind of music do you like?” I asked her.
She tried very hard to pronounce Tchaikovsky. She never did get it right but I understood what she meant.
So the next time I took Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and played several selections for her. She was ecstatic. She smiled and tapped out the rhythms on her lap using both hands. She clapped enthusiastically at the end of each piece. It was a true joy to see her so happy.
Then Carolyn declined significantly. She was receiving hospice care and was always in bed when I arrived. Her eyes were usually closed, even though she was often awake. I talked to her but she never said anything back.
Nonetheless I kept playing the Nutcracker Suite for her every time. She showed no reaction whatsoever. I was frustrated but kept it up anyway.
Then one day I asked, “Do you like it?”
Her response was shocking to say the least.
She immediately opened her eyes widely and said in a loud, clear voice, “Very much.”
It was proof that she was still “there” – still aware of her surroundings even though she rarely acknowledged it and even though she was literally on her death bed. She died a week later.
People with Alzheimer’s – especially those in the later stages of the disease – may stop talking or making other clear attempts to communicate. Too often we assume they don’t know what’s going on around them. We think they don’t understand what people are saying to them or about them.
My experience with Carolyn shows that’s not always the case.
5 Mistakes I Made While Visiting “My Ladies” With Dementia
Since I retired last April I have been volunteering to visit three ladies with dementia at a local memory care facility.
Knowing of my interest in, and numerous publications about, Alzheimer’ caregiving, both the facility administration and I thought it would be a snap. I would be the supreme visitor. (I’ve even published an article about visiting people with Alzheimer’s.)
I’m embarrassed to say, however, that I’ve made many mistakes over the months. I have learned that knowing what to do and actually doing it can be two very different things.
I’m going to list 5 of them here, hoping they may be of help to others.
- I gave Nancy (not her real name) three instructions in one sentence. When I told her I was there to visit with her, she asked me how we went about that. I said, “First we go down to your room, then we sit down, and then we visit a while.” (No wonder she didn’t want to visit with me!)
- I have asked each of the three at least once if they remember some specific person or event. That only confuses them and makes them feel bad if they can’t remember.
- I corrected Carolyn when she told me she didn’t have a daughter. She had previously told me about her daughter, so I reminded her of that. She was needlessly embarrassed.
- I consistently forget to address them frequently using their names. Using their names would help us develop a bond.
- Finally, when Ruth asked me about her husband I made the mistake of telling her he had passed away, rather than using the generally agreed upon approach of telling a white lie and making up some reason he was temporarily gone.
Well – there you have it. Talk about being embarrassed. I certainly am. But at least I know the mistakes I’ve made and am avoiding them now.
Puppy’s Magical Visit to a Memory Care Facility
I’ve always heard that pets can reach people with Alzheimer’s on a level we cannot. But I was not at all prepared for the profound reaction my little puppy was going to bring about last Thursday. Here’s what happened:
“Oh, my sakes,” Ruth said. “Isn’t she adorable! She’s so tiny. Look at that cute little face!”
That’s what Ruth (one of “My Ladies” with dementia I visit each week), said when I arrived with my itsy bitsy Shih Tzu puppy, Christina.
Christina, ten weeks old and weighing in at just two and a half pounds, hasn’t yet had her first haircut and is a little ball of fuzz. Her eyes peek out from beneath a broad tuft of fur; her tail never stops wagging.
“Thank you so much for bringing her. I love her!”
Then we played a game with Christina. Ruth sat in her well-worn easy chair at one end of her room and I stood at the other end just in front of the door.
Ruth clapped her hands and called Christina, who went racing toward her, then dive-bombed her feet like Babe Ruth sliding into home plate head first.
The second Christina arrived Ruth flung both arms straight up in the air and shouted, “Whee!”
Then I called Christina and she shot back to me like a mighty Hereford in a stampede.
We both laughed so hard we had tears running down our cheeks.
“Thank you so much for bringing her,” Ruth said for the second time.
Given Ruth’s memory, I thought I could probably bring Christina frequently, and every time would be like the first time. What a wonderful gift that would be. So much pleasure for Ruth and so easy for me to do.
Finally, and reluctantly, I told Ruth I had to leave. She walked me to the door. Then we hugged, as always.
“Thank you so much for bringing her,” Ruth said for the third time.
Then she added, “This is my best day since I’ve lived here!”
Come Back Early Today is Now Available in
E-Reader Formats for Kindle, Nook, iPhone and More
Come Back Early Today is still available in print or digital, formatted for Kindle via Amazon.com.
But now it is also available in several other e-reader formats via Smashwords.com (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/289221)