Christmas When It’s Not Christmas in Dementialand (Or My Shout-Out to Nana, the Winner for Christmas Spirit)

First of all, Welcome to Dementialand will be off for the next two weeks due to the holiday. I say this as if it’s been a corporate decision–rather than just a woman sitting on a couch deciding she’d like a little break for Christmas and the New Year. I’ll be back in 2018. In the meantime, a bittersweet story that I hope you perceive to be … Continue reading Christmas When It’s Not Christmas in Dementialand (Or My Shout-Out to Nana, the Winner for Christmas Spirit)

Dementia and the Tired Brain

This blog post was a struggle to write. It usually takes me about 45 minutes to complete a post. Today I’ve been sitting here for well over two hours. And I am on the second paragraph. You see, it’s the week of finals at the university where I work. It’s stressful for college students, of course. It’s also stressful for professors. My brain is tired. … Continue reading Dementia and the Tired Brain

Love and Renovations in Dementialand (aka This One is For the Dementia Spouses)

A guy once told me he never knew how much his wife accomplished in a day until she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was unable to do what she had done for the previous thirty years. He told me that picking up the slack was a big challenge for him. 

“Dementia doubled my chores,” one woman told me.

Stop. Take a second right now. Pat yourself on the back for the added responsibilities that you’ve mastered. Continue reading Love and Renovations in Dementialand (aka This One is For the Dementia Spouses)

Saying No and Leaving Early in Dementialand (aka I Wish You the Best Possible Holidays)

You do not have to buy a present for every single person you’ve called a friend since middle school. If you don’t have the time or energy to send out holiday cards, then don’t do it. Maybe Midnight mass just isn’t in the cards this year. No one ever died from only having one choice of pie at a holiday dinner (unless it’s pumpkin pie, which is disgusting since pumpkin is a decorative item and not a real food–just an opinion). Continue reading Saying No and Leaving Early in Dementialand (aka I Wish You the Best Possible Holidays)

Dementia and the Gift

I get a lot of gifts from people with dementia. And I’m not talking about abstract and intangible gifts. I’m talking about actual stuff.

Sometimes they are gifts “stolen” from another resident at a memory care community. Sometimes they are pulled directly from a dirty clothes hamper. Sometimes they are things that aren’t really useful to me–like a used lipstick.

I have been given family heirlooms only to return them to family members at a later date. People have insisted I accept horse figurines, gently used toothbrushes, expensive and inexpensive jewelry, cat beds, and rocks. People color me pictures. Once someone gave me a photo of their grandbaby so I “wouldn’t forget what babies look like since no one has them nowadays.” Continue reading Dementia and the Gift

Why We Should Keep Talking About Dementia Even if Things Get Weird

At the end of a recent presentation, a guy asked me a question. It was a great question–kind of like a huge softball making its way to the plate so I could hit it out out of the park. (Not that I have any idea what it feel like to hit a softball out of a park. When I play slow pitch I’m just lucky … Continue reading Why We Should Keep Talking About Dementia Even if Things Get Weird

Being Right, Being Wrong, and Doing Your Best in Dementialand

Melissa would later tell me that she had an anxiety disorder, and she knew how awful her anxiety made her feel. If Edie felt an ounce of that, she told me, then the family needed to stop the weekly salon visits immediately. I have no doubt that Melissa was acting out of genuine concern. Continue reading Being Right, Being Wrong, and Doing Your Best in Dementialand

Dementia and the Wedding

Your cousin is getting married. Grandma loves weddings. In fact, she used to do all her friends’ hair when they would get married. She’s always adored family gatherings—the bigger, the better. You plan to go to the nursing home, help her get dressed, assist her with makeup and hair, drive her three hours to the church, hang out with her at the reception, and stay … Continue reading Dementia and the Wedding

Positive Things in Dementialand

There’s something refreshing about visiting a group of people at an assisted living, nursing home, memory care community, or adult day center—where divisions of social class tend to disappear, no one cares who much money you make, and a retired janitor is just as respected as a retired cardiologist. And all that stuff I watch on the news that makes me fear for the future of our country? I leave it at the door when I visit my friends with dementia. (It’s better than hot yoga—where my mind wanders to a Facebook argument about politics that I am tempted to enter as I contort awkwardly into pigeon pose.) Continue reading Positive Things in Dementialand