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)
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
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
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
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
I had planned a presentation that broke college students could not be bribed into attending. I mean, college students love pizza. And not even the power of free pizza could get them to show up to listen to my presentation. Wrap your brain around that. Continue reading Dementialand and Nursing Homes and Dying OH MY! (A.K.A. When Your Presentation is Postponed Due to Lack of Interest)
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
A woman explained to me that her mother, who has Lewy-Body dementia, had forgotten how much she loved Jesus. Ella, as I will call her, had always gone to a Baptist church. She wasn’t pushy or overbearing about religion, but it was important to her. She was well-respected at her church for her willingness to prepare food for funerals and help with gardening on the church … Continue reading Jesus, Faith, and Coping in Dementialand
When I was in graduate school, the movie Mean Girls came out. If you haven’t seen it, I don’t recommend putting it on your priority list, but I have to say it was thought-provoking for me–at least as thought-provoking as an American teen comedy can be. Here’s the premise. The movie, which stars Lindsay Lohan (post-Parent Trap but pre-shoplifting), features a clique of 16-year-old girls called the Plastics, who is–go … Continue reading Mean Girls in Dementialand
After one of my friends excitedly told me she was pregnant, she launched into a long monologue about whether or not it was the right time to have a baby. She explained that she and her husband had been talking for years about when the right time to have a child might be. First, she was in a grad school. Then, he got a promotion … Continue reading Looking for a Sign in Dementialand (Or When You Just Gotta Make the Call)