Thursday, November 5, 2015

Somebody Stole My Iron

I want to share a post from Vicki Tapia who tells her family's story in her book Somebody Stole My Iron

A Family Memoir of Dementia — by Vicki Tapia

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2014, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care. As a caregiver, have you ever wished you were somewhere —anywhere— else? How do you proceed to love this stranger who barely resembles the parent or spouse you once knew? What do you do when your emotions get the best of you? Do you sometimes feel quite alone in the world? Somebody Stole My Iron can help to validate those feelings and offer insights on coping. You aren’t alone!

2015 High Plains Book Award Finalist!

The Billings Public Library Board has established the High Plains Book Awards to recognize regional authors and/or literary works which examine and reflect life on the High Plains including the states of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Gift of Love

 I sat down with three beautiful ladies as they enjoyed their lunch. We began to chat about the delicious lunch and other mundane things. These lovely ladies looked just like any of the others couldn't tell by casual observation that they were not like the others there. They were all dressed nicely with their hair fresh from the beauty shop. They commented on my jewelry and the outfit I was wearing. We talked about children and shared some laughter. But as I continued to visit with them, I began to notice little things. I saw confusion on Ava's face as she tried to decide which eating utensil to pick up. I noticed Jeannie repeated the same story and showed a quick flash of agitation with a caregiver. I also noticed how Becky didn't initiate any conversation but readily replied to a question. Someone else may not have noticed these things, but I saw the signs of dementia. These delightful ladies each different, but yet the same as they live with dementia. They want the same things as you and I. They want someone to care, to talk with, to listen and to love. They were so gracious to accept me in their group and share their time with me. So why do we find it so difficult to accept them just as they are? This is for Ava, Becky, Jeannie and all the others,,,thank you! Because of you I am a better person. I have learned patience and compassion. I have learned to open my heart and expect nothing in return. I love you all unconditionally just as you have loved me! 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Day of Thanksgiving

Today was a very special day as we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for our Memory Care Residents and their families. There were many smiles, a few tears and lots of good memories made. It gave us all a chance to see the love of family as each Resident hosted their family on this special day. Talk turned to memories of Thanksgiving past, children being small now grown, loved ones who are no longer here to share the day and more. 

Appetites were hearty as we all enjoyed the turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and more. Residents who often struggle to sit and enjoy a whole meal were relaxed and smiling. Conversation flowed as freely as the food. No one seemed rushed or anxious. Family photos were taken and shared on cell phones. It was almost an odd sight to see the traditional dinner and the sight of the cell phones, but it made it possible for family members to join us from afar. 

It was my honor to read a poem I had written as we did our annual Candlelighting Ceremony in honor of all those living with dementia. There was such a stillness in the room as we all took a few moments to honor the living and remember those who are gone. I am so thankful to know and love these Residents and their families. I truly cherish the moments I get to spend with them. It was easy to thank our families for allowing us to share in their journey as we care for their loved ones. It truly was a day of thanks giving!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Feeling of Love

I was helping with lunch when one of the ladies said "you sure work hard making everyone feel loved!" I paused for a moment to think about what she said. I do reach out to touch each person, make eye contact and smile. I try to reassure the anxious ones that everything will be ok. I give hugs, back rubs and sing a song or two. I often sit with my residents and chat while we are waiting to be served. 

Am I working hard? Not at all. I am just doing what comes naturally to me. I let my residents know I care about them. I let them know that I enjoy our conversations and we chat even when their words no longer make sense to most people. I find I can still understand the emotions behind their words. I let them know that I need their hugs. I let them know that they are important. Would I want any less if I were in their shoes? 

I will cherish Miss B's words for a long time to come. I hope I can make her and all the others feel loved each day that I am with them. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

All is not lost...

So often I see people acting like someone with dementia is already gone. They will often no longer look them in the eyes, touch becomes less frequent, and conversation diminishes. Does this happen because the disease takes people away or because we no longer look at them in the same way any longer?

I love seeing a light come into someone's eyes when I can connect with her or him. I always get close so we can make eye contact. I usually touch the person, often holding their hand as we look deep into each other's eyes. I begin a conversation, hoping the person will join in. This may be with words, a smile, or a squeeze of my hand. It doesn't really matter to me how we's more important that we connect. I will often sing an old familiar song which often brings a soft voice singing with me. It may not be all the words, but the music is there. The person is still there. We just have to reach them.

It seems to me that we give up trying to connect. When Mom can't remember the grandchildren or that Dad died 5 years ago, we often begin to pull away. As we pull away we watch our loved one retreat deeper into their own world where they live in memories. That's why they often tell us that Aunt Esther and Uncle Ed stopped by today. We begin to think they surely must have lost their mind because Aunt Esther died 25 years ago and Uncle Ed passed 10 years ago. How can Mom possibly believe that she saw them...she has to be crazy, right?

But the pages of our memories often flutter as we relive times in our lives. Some days we may be remembering long ago. Other days it may be on a more recent page of memories. We can help them to enjoy these fleeting memories just by letting them open up and talk about Aunt Esther or Uncle Ed. You might even hear some wonderful families stories that you never knew. Don't worry if the facts aren't perfect. This is not a history class...this is about the feelings! And just remember...All is not lost, it's just temporarily forgotten to be remembered another day.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dementia knocks

 When dementia comes knocking

Our world starts rocking

It comes to both young and old

It creeps in or races in so bold

It takes over our dreams

Scaring us it seems

Dementia can be a frightening place

We need love and support to run this race

Arms up and Reaching out

Sometimes a whisper

Sometimes a shout

Why can't they hear me?

Don't they see?

What would you do

If it happened to you? 

By Sandy Whelan 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dementia with Dignity: I Hope You Dance

Dementia with Dignity: I Hope You Dance: Dave was younger than most of our other residents. He had been found wandering and very confused. After a brief hospital stay, he came to ...