Nursing Homes and Guilt Traps in Dementialand

And then there are people who promise their loved ones that they will never place them in a nursing home. I once had a woman say to me, “My husband and I promised we’d never do that to each other.”

I can promise my spouse a lot of things. I can promise I’ll never cheat on him. I can promise I’ll never blow all our money at the casino. I can promise to always take the kitchen trash out when it’s overflowing. (Bill, I promise you the first two–I make no commitment to the third. The third was just an example.) You see, those are things I can control. Continue reading Nursing Homes and Guilt Traps in Dementialand

When You Are Accused of Being a Diva in Dementialand

You see, I’m not concerned about them. I’m concerned about you. They may never understand your diagnosis. And I don’t want their ignorance to negatively impact your quality of life. You’ve got enough challenges to navigate. It is not your job to explain your symptoms to them. You have nothing to prove to them. You and your care partner must make choices in your own best interest. If they don’t get it, then they don’t get it. If they call you a diva behind your back (or even to your face), let them. You have limited time and energy. Do not spend it explaining yourself to them. Continue reading When You Are Accused of Being a Diva in Dementialand

Delivering Bad News in Dementialand (Or Do I Tell Mom Her Sister Died?)

What we want to avoid is inflicting pain unnecessarily. If a person will not be able to process and remember that a loved one has died, giving them this information causes them unnecessary pain. If you must tell them repeatedly because they are not able to store the information, you are causing pain with no purpose. It’s like poking someone with a needle but not giving a shot. Continue reading Delivering Bad News in Dementialand (Or Do I Tell Mom Her Sister Died?)

Playing Dear Abby in Dementialand (And My Overdue Apology to My Muscatine High School Peers)

This Dear Abby thing isn’t new to me. I wrote an advice column in my high school newspaper. In four years of high school, only one person wrote me for advice. (And I remember the letter vividly. It was from an anonymous kid who thought he might be gay. My friend Lory who is a counselor helped me write a response. I still think about that guy and hope he’s doing okay. If you’re out there, please tell me you’re okay.) Continue reading Playing Dear Abby in Dementialand (And My Overdue Apology to My Muscatine High School Peers)

Shrinking and Cluttered Closets in Dementialand

Whatever life throws at you, may you keep your closet full but not cluttered. We can’t control everything about our lives, but we can control where we invest our time and effort. We can’t invest time and effort in everything. We may have less to invest than we’ve had in the past. Invest it in the right things for you. Don’t let how other people organize their closet make you feel like you’re organizing yours wrong. They aren’t you. They may have a bigger or smaller closet, and they may have different priorities. Continue reading Shrinking and Cluttered Closets in Dementialand

Two Damn Nancy’s in Dementialand: A Love Story

I met John and Lynn (not their real names–and I’ve changed some details here) at a nursing home that I visited to do a series of trainings. John was in his late 50’s and had younger-onset Alzheimer’s. Lynn, his wife, had married him only a few years early. A second marriage for both of them, they had looked forward to retiring together and traveling the world. Instead, they sat in the lounge at the end of a dim nursing home corridor. She was watching Judge Judy. He was sitting in a wheelchair holding a stuffed bear like a baby. Continue reading Two Damn Nancy’s in Dementialand: A Love Story

Lessons Learned From Writing About Dementialand for Two Years

Dementia is a tragedy, a comedy, and a love story all at once. The comments and emails I get from people range from sad, to funny, to heartwarming. To those who have started off a message to me with “I shouldn’t find this funny but….,” it is okay that you find it funny. Continue reading Lessons Learned From Writing About Dementialand for Two Years

Happy Holidays from Dementialand (aka I Wish You Survival With Some Moments of Joy Thrown In)

I wasn’t going to write a post this week. I’m on holiday break from the university, and I thought I’d take a holiday break from writing as well. Yet I’m awake late into this Sunday night and rather than watch more reality TV or spend more money on Amazon.com, here I am with my laptop sitting in bed. And I have a message for my … Continue reading Happy Holidays from Dementialand (aka I Wish You Survival With Some Moments of Joy Thrown In)

Accepting the Gift in Dementialand

A woman once relayed to me a story about her 90-year-old mother, Ellen, who had Alzheimer’s. Ellen was at a large family Christmas gathering.  She received a shiny red gift bag with bow on it. With some prodding, she opened the bag. Inside she found a pair of cozy socks. She seemed mildly excited and thanked the gift giver. She then put the socks back in the … Continue reading Accepting the Gift in Dementialand