Mom can find inspiration and joy almost anywhere.
Today she turned to me and said, “You know, if you ever feel kind of Blah—like life isn’t worth living—this will pick you right up.”
Then she held up an old copy of “Better Homes and Gardens.”
“It’s just wonderful!”
Not everyone is happy though. Mom and I sing “Winter Wonderland” all the time, perhaps too much. The other day Flora, one of Mom’s adorable neighbors in Assisted Living, looked at me, rolled her eyes and said acidly, “She sang it ALL DAY!”
I’ve begun alternating it “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.”
Model for painting
Last week, I joined Mom’s art class, mainly to prevent her from drinking the paint. I began by giving each of the ladies a gentle neck massage, eliciting groans of ecstasy. As I went around the table, I began singing “Heaven, I’m in Heaven” and they all joined in. Pretty wonderful.
The model on the table was bare winter branches on a blue cloth. I actually think Mom’s painting is more interesting than mine, but then Mom paints without editing and I am all too aware of what I am doing.
I showed her the painting today and I think she agreed with me. She liked hers and totally ignored mine.
OK, it’s not great art but interesting nonetheless.
Her memories of my father, so intense after his death six years ago, are muted; but his photos—my, he was handsome—adorn her room. She smiles when I point him out. So perhaps he was on her mind. It’s the first time she has ever written anything in one of her paintings let alone the word “Dad”. Interesting.
The model on the table was a photograph of mountains in a blue sky.
And on anther note entirely, here she is shooting pool. Mom The Hustler.
For some reason I keep running into people who have a very dark view of life. It’s not prompted by the news—that I could understand. No, this seems to be a deeply imbedded commitment to seeing only the shortcomings of life. And it’s exhausting to be around.
That’s why it’s such a relief to visit Mom. Her short term memory may be about one second but she is the sunniest person I know. She greets you with a smile and a song. She tells you that you’re beautiful. Show her anything and she says, “Isn’t this terrific!” She is heaps praise on everyone and everything—though oblivious to praise herself. (Oh, those dour Scots.)
As her kid sister Louise (93) says, “There is a lot to be said for losing your mind. Your mother really is the happiest person I know.”
This is a picture she keeps in her room. Mom and Dad—looking happy and gorgeous—on their wedding day, October 3, 1942. On the back she has written, “We were just married!”
We were JUST married!
Model for painting
As we approach the holidays, more and more of us will be attending family gatherings. Some of us will be absolutely flummoxed as to how to communicate with friends and family with Alzheimer’s and dementia. So I’d like to pass on the best advice I’ve heard in a long time from Dottie DeMarco in Bob DeMarco’s invaluable website The Alzheimer’s Reading Room.
What a person living with dementia would tell you if they could.
1. You know what makes me feel safe, secure, and happy? A smile.
2. Did you ever consider this? When you get tense and uptight it makes me feel tense and uptight.
3. Instead of getting all bent out of shape when I do something that seems perfectly normal to me, and perfectly nutty to you, why not just smile at me? It will take the edge off the situation all the way around.
4. Please try to understand and remember it is my short term memory, my right now memory, that is gone — don’t talk so fast, or use so many words.
5. You know what I am going to say if you go off into long winded explanations on why we should do something? I am going to say No, because I can never be certain if you are asking me to do something I like, or drink a bottle of castor oil. So I’ll just say No to be safe.
6. Slow down. And don’t sneak up on me and start talking. Did I tell you I like smiles?
7. Make sure you have my attention before you start blabbering away. What is going to happen if you start blabbering away and you don’t have my attention, or confuse me? I am going to say No – count on it.
8. My attention span and ability to pay attention are not as good as they once were, please make eye contact with me before you start talking. A nice smile always gets my attention. Did I mention that before?
9. Sometimes you talk to me like I am a child or an idiot. How would you like it if I did that to you? Go to your room and think about this. Don’t come back and tell me you are sorry, I won’t know what you are talking about. Just stop doing it and we will get along very well, and probably better than you think.
10. You talk too much, instead try taking my hand and leading the way. I need a guide not a person to nag me all the time.
Read the entire article – http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2013/04/Ten-Tips-Communicating-Dementia-Patients.html