But When Are You Supposed to Grieve in Dementialand?

I gave a presentation for dementia family caregivers at a memory care community last fall. A middle-aged woman in the front row did not seem impressed with me at all. She almost scowled at me when we did make eye contact, but for most of my presentation she stared at the wall above my head. I wondered if I had said something to offend her. … Continue reading But When Are You Supposed to Grieve in Dementialand?

Tequila in Dementialand

A woman had recently been admitted to hospice and her family wanted to go out of town to attend a wedding. The volunteer coordinator asked if I might be able to stay with her for an evening. Bev (not her real name) was a divorcee in her 70’s who had had vascular dementia. She’d experienced several strokes and had been told she was in heart failure. I … Continue reading Tequila in Dementialand

Home in Dementialand

I had just visited an innovative memory care community for the first time. I was impressed with what it had to offer residents in terms of exposure to nature, community connections, and activities. The staff had to complete continuing education in the area of dementia care. The building was well-designed, bright, and clean. And, maybe most importantly (in book, anyway), the food was prepared by … Continue reading Home in Dementialand

Pain in Dementialand (aka What Kidney Stones Taught Me)

The amount of pain experienced by those in end-stage dementia terrifies me. We know that at the end of life people with dementia receive only a fraction of the pain control medications of that those without dementia receive. Are they in less pain? Nope. We have no reason to think that dementia stops individuals from feeling pain. Dementia eventually stops people from communicating pain and understanding its cause, but research shows that pain-related brain activity is the same in people with and without dementia. Continue reading Pain in Dementialand (aka What Kidney Stones Taught Me)

Assholes in Dementialand

One of my college students, Hillary, had come with me to a particular adult day center once a month for a couple of years. Today was her last day because she was headed to grad school at Syracuse. One of the guys, who I will call James, was really attached to Hillary. He would rush in, pushing his walker to make sure he got to sit … Continue reading Assholes in Dementialand

Dying in Dementialand

I pulled up at a nursing home in an impoverished part of Kansas City. It was 2006–before GPS was commonplace. I had printed out Mapquest directions to find this place. It didn’t help that it was raining, almost 11 pm, and that the nursing home was tucked behind an authentic hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant and one of those Payday Loans joints, but I found it. I was … Continue reading Dying in Dementialand

Stuffed Cats and Real Cats in Dementialand

I once got in a tense argument about whether a stuffed cat was a real cat. For the record, it was a stuffed cat but really it was a real cat. About ten years ago, I was visiting with a hospice patient on a weekly basis. Linda-not her real name-had vascular dementia (as well as multiple other health conditions) and lived at an assisted living. She was reserved … Continue reading Stuffed Cats and Real Cats in Dementialand

Mistaken Identities in Dementialand

I spoke at the Illinois and Iowa Quad City Family Conference on Saturday. We had a great turnout, and even had some press coverage: http://qctimes.com/news/local/caregiver-conference-attracts-its-biggest-crowd-ever/article_ee4294a2-6fb4-5e3e-ba81-64b7666b8288.html (Please note that I hate my press photo and have no idea why it appears that my hair is longer on one side than the other.) After I spoke, a small line of people formed by the stage to talk to … Continue reading Mistaken Identities in Dementialand

Candor in Dementialand (aka Notes on Whether My Hair is Scroungy like an Alley Cat)

I sometimes struggle with apathy when making decisions about the big things in life–like my hair. It used to be closer to chin length and now it’s shoulder length. I’ve asked a few friends if they like it better shorter or longer and no one gives me a straight answer. They say things like, “Oh, it looks good both ways.” They are being nice…I get … Continue reading Candor in Dementialand (aka Notes on Whether My Hair is Scroungy like an Alley Cat)