Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teenage exercise lowers risk of later life dementia

Recently an article was published in the local paper by Marjie Gilliam an international Sports Sciences Master certified personal trainer entitled "Exercise may lower risk of dementia."  I will briefly summarize the article.

Studies show men and women over age of 65 that exercise at least 15-30 minutes at least three times per week were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease even if they were genetically predisposed to the disease.  "Although women who are physically active have a lower risk of cognitive impairment in late life compared to those who are sedentary, physical activity during teenage years appears to be most important in reducing this risk of cognitive impairment in later life."

How surprising that this study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found being physically active as a teenager is most  important in preventing cognitive impairment.  The research also found that the women who didn't exercise as teenagers but became physically active at age 30 and 50 had significantly reduced odds of cognitive impairment relative to those who remained sedentary.

There is evidence to suggest that exercise has a positive effect on brain plasticity and cognition while reducing the rates and severity of vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes., each of which are associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment.

"Low physical activity levels in today's youth may mean increased dementia rates in the future."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Quote for the day

Before we pass judgment on others, before we lecture or scold, Dr. Montessori asked us to stop and answer these three questions about our own words:
“Is it true? “

“Is it necessary?”

“Is it kind?”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Picking Lily Up

My son Ryan is home for Thanksgiving.  This morning he went to pick up Lily to bring her home.  When they arrived home, I said, "Mom were you excited to see Ryan?"

"Yes, I couldn't believe he came to my school to pick me up."  she said with a big grin on her face.

"I guess he just couldn't wait and when I saw him I just about flipped."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bell Choir

Fascinating video of dementia patients at the Memory Support Center playing the bells. Yes, hey are clued in by the leader but I am amazed how well they respond and how good they sound.

If you look close you will see Lily acknowledging me at the beginning of the clip. Towards the end of the clip Lily is spurring her neighbor on when she wasn't quick enough with her bell.

Amazing the wonder of music with the memory impaired.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Captured on this video is my sister-in-law Paula telling Lily about her experience watching HGTV. This story has been told to Lily almost every time the two of them get together. Lily loves this story and her reaction is almost identical each and every time she hears it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Soon after mom came to live with me I thought often of writing about her and all we were going through.  At that time though it was hard for me to find the humor in the situation.  Learning to deal with another family member in your house takes some getting used to and not just for me but the rest of the family.

Looking back at the first year and the year prior to that I really only remember the hard times and the very difficult circumstances we had to work through dealing with trying to help her long distance over the phone with:

  • taking her medications daily
  • trying to find help getting her pill box set up
  • dealing with nursing agencies who did not understand how to deal with an Alzheimer patient
  • dealing with mom calling crying on the phone that she couldn't find her cat or her cat was sick or she was sick 
  • she couldn't find her purse or 
  • dealing with difficult family members  who did not understand, were not helpful, and actually made things much harder for me 

                                  and..................the list goes on.

I drove to SC every few months to check on her and bring her back to Dayton.  Initially she would stay with us for a couple weeks and that grew to about 6 weeks and, of course, eventually she moved in.

Gradually things got better or perhaps we just learned to adjust.  Learning to look for the humor in the situation helped immensely.  And that is where blogging came in to the picture.  I am thankful every time I think of how blogging has changed  my life.

I am thankful for my friend Robin who after vacationing with me and Lily encouraged me to begin.

I am thankful for Bob Burkle who gave me such an uplifting comment at the beginning of my blogging which was a great motivator.

I am thankful for the friends that encouraged me after I began--
Leigh Ann, Paula,Anne, Linda, Sande, Terry and Lynn.

I am thankful for my friend Bob DeMarco at the Alzheimer Reading Room http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/who has set a high standard for me to aspire to and has encouraged me greatly along the way.  I also appreciate the many comments I have received from my posts published on his site.

I am thankful for my new friends in the blogging community such as
Judy http://chrissysmoments.wordpress.com/,
Debbie http://debbiesdailygarden.blogspot.com/, and Karen http://karensfavoritephotos.blogspot.com/ who leave frequent comments on my posts.  Comments mean so much as they validate what you write and keep the juices alive.

I am thankful for Denyse (my miles that matter friend) who has been my number one fan and a great energy boost for me.

I appreciate all the followers of my blog and the anonymous comments I have received  and those from people such my former neighbor's mother Cindy.

I am thankful for Nienie's http://nieniedialogues.blogspot.com/ stories of her family and the challenges she faces each and every day..

I am thankful for the inspiration  I receive from the bloggers who are living the disease in a much more personal way such as Mike Donohue http://im-mike.blogspot.com/, Sue Scoggins http://suescoggins.com/blog, and Karen http://henleysheroes.blogspot.com/.

I am thankful for cousin-in-law Sue who is a fabulous writer herself and so encourages me and gives me wonderful feedback on my pieces.

I am thankful for my wonderful family who are there for me and have helped me so much with Lily along the way.

Yes, blogging has added so much to my life and without Lily none of this would have have happened.  I am thankful for the opportunity to make something good out of an unwanted situation.  Kind of like the proverbial make lemonade out of lemons.

Lastly, I want to thank God for all he has brought into my life and the grace and mercy he has shown me.

I wish all of you a very wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving with your family and friends.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving 2009

With Thanksgiving upon us, I looked back on video from last year when we go around the table telling what we give thanks for. Lily needed a little bit more prompting than usual with the family teasing her along the way.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Exercise Improves Cognition

I have a close friend out in Colorado who is the Director of the Cardiac Rehab Program at a hospital near Denver.  She recently was telling me about a middle aged male patient diagnosed with early Alzheimer's who came in following a cardiac event for rehab.
 His doctor had ordered a minimum amount of moderate intensity sessions for him to complete.

When he first started the staff had to apply a safety belt and stay with with him constantly repeating instructions to his repetitive questions and watching to be sure he did not change the settings.  He was not appropriate and initially they were questioning his ability to participate.

Before long the staff started noticing positive changes in him.  He became more appropriate, less repetitive, and more engaged.   His family and doctor noticed the difference also and his doctor told him he was not quitting and ordered 30 more sessions for him.

My friend was amazed and excited the difference that the exercise made in regards to his cognitive function.

Personally I try to exercise every day at least 30 minutes and often bring Lily with me on walks around the block.   I believe exercise has made a  difference in her mood and engagement.   The exertion, fresh air, sunshine, and added stimulus all make for a positive experience.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Conan O'Brien

While dropping Lily off after an evening out at the Dublin Pub, her evening caregiver Rachel said to me that they were watching Conan O'Brien the other evening and Lily asked them, "Who he was?" 

So they told her and she said,  "I think I knew him when I was young" which they thought was cute and funny.

I said to them, "Well, I know where she got that from.  Her sister Peg was married to Con O'Brien!"

So, you see, she was not too far off!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lily I'm Back!

I arrived at the Memory Support Center yesterday to find Lily in good spirits and happy to see me.

"Where have you been?"

"Mom, I was in Arizona visiting Emily."

"How long were you gone?"

"One week."

"Is that all.  I thought you were gone about 3 weeks."

I assured her I wasn't and I then started to tell her about my trip as I escorted her back to her room to help her shed 4 of the 5 layers of clothing she had on.

As I was taking her picture to show the layers of clothing she let me know what she thought about that!

In her room she showed me a bouquet of flowers and I noticed a tin of bear claws.

"Look what I got."

"Who are they from."

"I don't know.  I have been trying to figure that out."

A couple minutes later she again showed me the flowers and we repeated the above exchange because oftentimes Mom may remember a detail later that she couldn't pull up just a minute before.  Sure enough she said,

"They told me Traci sent them."

"Who's Traci?"  (my sister)

"I don't know who Traci is."

However, later on in the morning she remembered Traci easily.

"Of course, I remember Traci."

So there you go -- the various windows of the Alzheimer's affected mind.

I spoke to the staff who said she did fine while I was away.  Rachel, her 2nd shift caregiver said the first couple of days she was a little agitated, but then was her usual self.  The activities gal gave me a run through of all they had done, and I could tell how much she enjoys Lily and all that Lily brings to the group.

I was pleased to know that Lily did ok while I was gone.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Back from Tucson

Arrived home yesterday after a wonderful visit with Emily.  I need a vacation now after spending the week shopping, shopping, and more shopping helping her decorate her small apartment.  I found with the help of Aunt Mollie and Sue some wonderful deals at local thrift stores.  We found a $40 chair, $16 dinette table, $5 coffee table, and a $25 night stand.  Found I enjoyed thrift shopping and looking for the treasures.

Plan to see Lily today and will post about that later.  My friend and neighbor Anne went to visit her while I was away and found her well, in good spirits, and dressed in multiple layers as usual.  I checked on her from Tucson by phone and the staff said she was doing fine with a lingering cough.  I missed Mom and am looking forward to seeing her.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

RIP Carl Day

A good friend of Miles that Matter (my running group) and a well known TV personality in Dayton passed away.  Carl Day known as the Voice of Dayton was a wonderful man who I felt very honored to have met.  My running friend Denise had a very special friendship with him and was a great comfort to him and his family.  Below are pictures from the WPAF marathon 2009.

Leigh Ann, myself, and Carl Day

Picture of the big screen as Carl (in center with walker) crosses the finish line with Miles that Matter.

Carl Day and Denise (to his right)

Tucson Pictures

    Catalina mountains ("Emily's Mountain") in Tucson which she can see from her picture window.  This picture was actually taken from the top (5th floor) of the downtown Tucson parking garage where her dance company "New Articulations" performed.

The Audience at New Articulations dance show

The backdrop for the dancers

The Dancers

Dinner after the show with Aunt Mollie and Sue.  Their last night in Tucson.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Do you see the resemblance?

Lily's nephew Niall and his girlfriend Jeannie on their visit here from England in September.
(The glasses and teeth aren't his, lol)

How I miss them!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ankle Monitors

                                                           All residents in the Memory Support Center at mom's nursing home must wear ankle monitors which alarm when they leave the unit.  This insures that in the event a resident manages to get out of the unit the alarm will go off which will alert the staff. This is a back up system to the locked doors which a code must be punched in to leave the unit.  The premise is good but the system is flawed.

The ankle bracelets are quite unattractive, uncomfortable, and annoying, but most importantly they are an affront to the dignity of the person who wears them.  They look like a hospital bracelet  with a bright blue cube on it only they go around the ankle and are worn at all times-----bathing, sleeping, and out of the unit-----24/7.  Anyone observing them would realize the person is a "patient" somewhere and would wonder what was wrong with them.

The Memory Support Center is beautiful and I am sure they were trying to make the environment as home-like as possible when drawing up the plans.  The environment does a good job at that.  Making the residents wear this ugly anklet takes away from their intentions and is very noticeable when they sit down or when wearing capris in the warmer weather.  Putting socks over them is difficult and the use of Ted hose would be near impossible unless you would take it off when changing the Ted hose and the only way to do that is to cut it off.  The elderly often have fluctuating swollen ankles which in itself could present a problem with this arrangement.

The other thing is you can't turn them on or off so when you take your loved one out or bring them in, unless an employee is nearby to disarm the alarm with their badge (and usually there is nobody around the doors) the alarm goes off.  The alarm is a very high pitched, ear splitting noise which really I think would  harm your hearing over time and at the least is highly annoying. Because of so many false alarms nobody comes running to see who is going in or out. The alarm often goes on for a couple of minutes before being turned off.

I do understand the need for monitoring especially those that tend to wander.  I do not understand the all inclusive policy.  Lily has never tried to leave nor would some of the residents who are wheel chair confined or on walkers and can barely make it down the hall. Why is common sense not allowed to enter the equation? 

When Lily had this placed on her on arrival she would get so irritated and ask me for a scissors "to cut the damn thing off".  When she would come visit she would find the scissors and cut it off.  After losing three of them the nurse manager informed me they cost around $100.  I asked if I could sign a waiver so the nursing home would not be liable.  However, that was not allowed. Seeing I was not getting anywhere and not wanting to take an antagonistic approach  I put my thinking cap on and came up with a workable solution.

I created an attractive bracelet from her identification bracelet she had at home and incorporated the blue cube which is the monitor.  The cube was kind of ugly but that couldn't be helped.  I told a little white lie and explained to Lily that this bracelet was from Ryan so she gladly agreed to wear it although on occasion has said that the big blue cube was rather ugly.  To the nursing home's credit they allowed her to wear the bracelet as opposed to the original ankle band.

The entire staff loved the bracelet and wanted to get the activities department to make them for the rest of the residents.  I don't know that the men would like them, but maybe if they incorporated it into a watch that would work.

It would be nice if somehow a system was developed that a code could be punched in by the families to disarm the alarm when taking their loved one out. To allow this though always leaves open the risk that the family might not be careful to be sure another resident does not follow them out.

However, the way I see it with all the false alarms a resident could be long gone before the staff realized it.  Pretty unlikely, but yet again I think it unlikely a resident would follow another resident's family out without being noticed.  The other option would be to   allow some of the residents who do not wonder to be excluded.

I guess with all the lawsuits in this world risks like these are too great to allow, but that is a whole other blog!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lily Up Yours

The story behind this video is that while in Cabo last spring Ryan and his buddy Austin decided to get henna tattoos on the beach.  (Henna tattoos last a couple of weeks)  

Ryan came up with the idea to put the phrase that Lily uses so often on his arm to get her reaction when we got home.  You just witnessed her reaction.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Welcome Arizona

Arrived yesterday to visit with my daughter Emily for a week.  Above is a view from the front window of her apartment.  Spent first part of day getting new tires on her car (Milton) as she had a flat tire and was unable to pick me up at the airport so I rented a car the first day.

The rest of the day I spent shopping for items to make her apartment more homelike.  Emily had to work at both her jobs today -  Starbucks and the pet hospital.

In the evening we went to a Mexican restaurant and had a margarita to celebrate my arrival.  By the end of the meal I couldn't wait to get to bed as I had been up since 1:30am Arizona time.  I was beat!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lily's LuLu's ~ Ingenuity

On one of our many trips to Florida I removed all the suitcases to curtail Mom's packing everyday to go home.  Did that stop Lily?  As you can see by the picture she took her white pants, knotted each leg, and stuffed all her clothes inside. All she needed was a stick to tie to it and throw it over her shoulder!  Lily proves a little ingenuity can get you a long way.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sue's Note

(a note I received from my cousin-in-law Sue)

Hi, Kerry,

Just wanted to share a few comments that I got from friends who checked out your blog:
  • "Thanks for sending this, Sue. It's a really wonderful blog, and I'm not a blogger.  Glad you married into such a wonderful family.  I hope it also helps your healing process.  Blessings" (from my friend, Laura)
  • "I enjoyed reading the blogs and checking out the photos - what a great group!" (from my long-time best friend, Gail)
  • "This is so fine, Sue!!! I am going to share it with some of our Sisters who are caring for others with dementia... Mary" (Mary is  a Franciscan nun, a beautiful warm-hearted person. She lives in a studio apartment in Oakland, and maintains lots of contact with the sisters in her order who live in the motherhouse across the Bay.)
I also wanted to let you know that my sister has been reading your blog for a while now.....she kept reading it periodically in the fall, even when I didn't for a while. She mentioned it again to me last week, asking if I'd read it lately, telling me how much she enjoys it --- how whenever she reads it, she laughs a lot, and she cries. And it's all good.

I think I'm going to copy and send her the entry on "For me, the choice is simple". Even though we'd decided from the start of Mom's sudden decline how we were going to handle it, it still wasn't easy.....

Just wanted to remind you, in case you ever need reminders, that there are more people reading your blog that you'll ever know. Most probably don't "join" -- but are soothed and inspired by your words and your journey.

Love, Sue

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Visiting the boys at UC

 Yesterday Mom and I went to Cincinnati to visit Ryan and his roommate Kevin.  As usual they were hungry and we asked where they would like to eat--

Montgomery Inn ribs was the resounding choice!

 Mom and Ryan were acting silly as usual and Lily was in great form as she usually is when around her grandson.
The restaurant places bibs around the necks of all who order ribs.  Lily did not order ribs (too messy) but Ryan thought it would be great fun to put a bib on her anyway. 

She didn't seem to mind when the waitress tied her bib on.

About one minute later she looked down and saw it and yanked it off.

"I am not a baby. I don't dribble!"

We all were in stitches!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lily's LuLu's ~ AARP

Our AARP magazine came in the mail today.  I passed it over to Lily sitting at the counter.

"Mom, here is a new magazine for you to look at."

Out loud Mom began to read the headline to me:

                                   What Women Want

                             Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Betty White
                                     on sex, love, and ......staying hot!

            "That's ridiculous.  Why do you buy crap like this?"

I said,  "I didn't.  Read the label."

So Mom turns it over and reads the white address label.

"Dan RunyeonHell that's even worse and I am going to tell him so!"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Aging Mothers

I have been dealing with my mother's illness for several years and now have several friends dealing with their mother's health issues.  We are all in our 50's and our mothers are in their late 70's or early 80's.

One of the moms has now withdrawn somewhat from her family.  She no longer calls her children or wants to venture out much which is most distressing to my friend.  This behavior makes my friend and her sister feel as if their mother does not really care about them or her grandchildren.  She also makes inappropriate comments at times.  This past year they have noticed their mother who used to be meticulous now often wears the same old "comfy clothes" and many times the clothes are stained. Beginnings of something?  Probably but nobody really wants to bring up the subject.  Their Dad does not seem to notice or if he does has not said anything. 

Another friend is going through the end stages with her mom who suffers from Parkinson's, normal pressure hydrocephalus, and now esophageal cancer.  Not only is she dealing with all the losses these diagnosis bring, she is traveling back and forth three hours one way and trying to keep up with her own family back home.

Another friend happened to mention in an email that her mother's memory was slipping big time.  She said she was in a car accident so they took her keys as her driving is so bad.  She commented that the latest thing she was doing was confusing the portable phone for her TV remote.  "Isn't memory loss normal as we age?" she said.  I told her not this type of memory loss.  When you forget how to use something that you have been using for quite awhile that is a problem.  I encouraged her to bring all this to the attention of her doctor and get her tested.

My other friend's mom was becoming very forgetful and repetitive.  Recently my friend noticed a big improvement in her and came to find out that she was now on thyroid medicine as her level was low.  She was shocked at the difference that made.  If only all our mothers were fixed so easy!

This is just a sampling of all of us out there dealing with aging parents.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Hero, Elizabeth Patricia O'Callaghan Gehrke (Lily)

Looking back at my journey with Lily I have to say dealing with my mother 3 to 4 years ago was much tougher in some ways than the last year has been.  Although she was more independent then, meaning less work for me, she was more emotional, moody, and mean.  I wonder about that now and think perhaps it was due to a number of things not with just her, but also with me such as:

-me struggling to accept the diagnosis and what it would mean to herself, myself, and our family 

-her picking up on my feelings and reacting to them

-me trying to reorient her to reality even though I knew better

-her trying to cope with her diminishing abilities

-me trying to include her into my world and routine
-her hanging on desperately to what was left of her world and routine

-me trying to control too much
-her trying to maintain her independence

-me being able to let the small things go

-her just trying to continue to do the small things

-me learning to find humor wherever possible and encouraging her to laugh

-her dealing with uncertainty, loss, and depression with all the changes

-me learning to live in the moment and enjoying all that is left

-her trying to remember the lost moments

-me dealing with not very helpful family members

-her missing the people who were part of her old life

When I compare the two lists I would much rather be on my end. It brings tears to my eyes thinking of all my mother has had to work through and all her losses. Yes, there have been numerous hidden blessings, but even with all those I would still rather my mother have kept her cognitive abilities.  That obviously was not God's plan and we must roll with what we are given.  

I am proud of myself and my family for putting a  positive spin on this unforgiving disease, but most of all I sincerely admire my mother for her continual fight maintaining her positive spirit and her relentless get up and go, never giving up.  As hard as it is on the caregivers we must never forget all our loved ones have lost.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Field Trip

Recently the Memory Support Center had their first field trip to a local farm which offers hayrides and seasonal items.  This group, however,  just came to enjoy the scenery, sip cider, and eat cookies.

The staff had high hopes for the event so that it might be the first of many more.  Other than a few minor bumps such as the farm being out of apple cider all went well. 
The weather was a bit breezy but nice and sunny.  I have observed though that older people in general do not care for the wind.  Fortunately one of the activities personnel had the foresight to bring scarfs for the ladies to wear which made them happy.

Lily seemed to enjoy the outing and for some of these residents it was probably the first time they had been out in awhile.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween

Lily and her great grandchildren Caleb and Hannah 2010

Lily's Halloween nails (half picked off)