I’ve started noticing that the conversation around Alzheimer’s disease is always so heavy. Like, dead weight heavy. It’s about time we started changing that tone–especially for the folks and families doing the caregiving.
There’s some funny “shit-ake mushrooms” being said and done while experiencing this bizarre world of dementia, so I figure that until we cure this dumb disease, we have to learn coping strategies, like how to laugh. Swearing is another one…which you’ve already figured out.
For those of you who are still reading, here re some coping strategies and stories that I’ve either heard about from a family caregiver or a facility caregiver, or that I have experienced firsthand in my own adventures as the daughter to a mom with Alzheimer’s. I’m also a public policy advocate/ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Association and a professional in the geriatric healthcare world. So, I have seen A LOT. Most names shall be “made up” for the simple fact of privacy, but these stories are just too darn funny.
ALZHUMOR COPING STRATEGY NO. 1: MEET THEM WHERE THEY ARE.
First and foremost, as a family member or caregiver, this is the most important thing to understand about this disease: you HAVE to meet your person where they are, figuratively speaking. If they think it’s 1953 today, then you better get out your poodle skirt and American bandstand records. If they think it’s 1973, same thing! Hot pants and Brady Bunch episodes…but stay away from the fish bowl, if ya know what I mean.
So, my friend and fellow advocate “Laurie,” in her home with her mother, takes care of her grandmother with dementia. They are the only caregivers for this delightful old gal, and one day, after doing exercises with her, her grandmother started cracking up out of nowhere. Laurie asked, “Nana, what’s so funny?” Her Nana finally stopped laughing and shouted “I’m getting married!” Laurie said “To who?” and Nana replied “I HAVE NO IDEA!” and kept cracking up! So, they both just sat their laughing their guts out. Laurie didn’t correct her or get upset. She’s way beyond that. Instead she just enjoyed a humorous moment with her Nana.
ALZHUMOR COPING STRATEGY NO. 2: THEIR REALITY IS YOUR REALITY.
You never know where they might take you with this one, so just go with it every single time. Literally.
I used to work in a nursing and rehab center, and there was one resident “Marilyn” who was slightly ornery, but always had a perplexed smile on her face. She had a lot of kids and grandkids, so with her dementia, she found comfort in baby dolls. Her daughters would bring in clean baby doll clothes and bonnets for this doll of Marilyn’s and it was pretty cute. One day, I was helping staff get everyone down to the dining room for lunch and told Marilyn “Come on! I’m gonna give you a ride!” (She was in a wheelchair.) As we went down the hall, she was rocking and singing to her “baby” and it was a very sweet moment. I stopped and asked her quietly, “How’s your baby today, Marilyn?” She looked up at me and without missing a beat, said “It’s just a doll, you idiot!” She was lucid for just a brief moment, clearly. We both started laughing so hard. By that point, she had no idea why she was laughing, but that just solidified why I do what I do!
ALZHUMOR COPING STRATEGY NO. 3: HALLUCINATIONS ARE NORMAL. DON’T ARGUE.
“Ted” was a pig farmer all of his life in Southwest Michigan and ended up with Alzheimer’s. He still lived at home in the family farmhouse. HIs adult children were stressed out by his hallucinations and sought counsel from the local Alzheimer’s Association in Kalamazoo with the program coordinator and social worker, Barb. One day, they called her completely distraught because Dad was running around saying that there were pigs and children running through the house. They kept trying to calm him down by telling him that there WERE NOT pigs and children running through the house. This only agitated him more. Barb calmly told them to acknowledge this. So, one day when Ted started screaming again about the pigs, his son quickly picked up a broom and started yelling “SUEEEEY!” and sweeping the pigs to the door. His sister opened the door and out the front door he swept those pigs! They slammed the door and turned around. Dad went and sat down in his Lazy Boy and said very matter of fact “Bout damned time somebody listened to me!” and was quiet for the rest of the evening.
My biggest takeaway here is to just keep it light as much as possible. If it’s funny, LAUGH! If it’s not funny, LAUGH. There isn’t a damn thing that you can do to control this disease and its tentacles. “Dr. Octopus ain’t got nuthin’ on Alzheimer’s.” I’m certainly not trying to “make light” of the horrors of this disease, but to encourage you to “be light” when going through your day. Next week, I’ll share three more stories to make you smile.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Maria (Martini) Deneau is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio and is the only daughter of four children born to Bernard and Evelyn Martini. She is a graduate of The University of Cincinnati and is currently employed by Kindred Healthcare in Southwest Michigan as a Home Health Specialist (Account Liaison) and has worked in senior healthcare since 2007. Maria serves as a Board Member for Fund Development at Senior Services of Kalamazoo County and also serves as a Networking Board Member of Professionals Focused on Aging in Kalamazoo, MI. She has also been recognized by the state of Ohio Senate for Outstanding Achievement and exemplary service to the community and its youth while living in Cincinnati, Ohio.
This article first appeared in The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement publication. Previous articles on the subject of Alzheimer’s have also appeared in Columnist with a View (columnistwithaview.com).
Okay, I admit it. You don’t even need to twist my arm or apply any pressure. I am a chocoholic! If there were membership cards to a group that does not want self-help, I would carry one for this.
So, Can-Do Real Food works with local farmers but I managed to soothe my chocolate need by making chocolate ice cream sauces with fruit. Last year I made small batches of ice cream sauce with raspberries, strawberries and cherries. This coming season I will be making, upon request from my Farm Partner Beach Family Farm, a blueberry chocolate ice cream sauce.
Last year’s challenge was to find a quality chocolatier in the area. The Williamette Valley is pretty spectacular with its vast array of crops, but chocolate is not grown here. The best I can do is to find a local producer. Last year I found Creo Chocolate in Portland. They have a direct Free Trade relationship with cacao growers in Ecuador. Creo roasts the beans and prepares chocolate in a variety of flavors. We like to use the 73% chocolate in our recipes because it is dark but has a bit of sugar added, which means we don’t add any other sugar to those recipes.
When the Straub family at Creo challenged us to develop a mole sauce we were intrigued. Mole, which means sauce, is used throughout Mexico and it seems like every grandmother has her own recipe. I had my first taste of chicken mole on a visit to Texas about 21 years ago. While I was disappointed a bit that it does not scream “CHOCOLATE!!” I think it might have been weird to eat a chocolatey piece of chicken. The chocolate, however, does an amazing job mixing with the peppers and tomatoes and other ingredients and making my taste buds very happy.
When we got this request we, of course, had to do some field work and ordered a lot of chicken mole over the next few weeks at a number of Mexican restaurants in the area. Every single one was different! They all were yummy, with variations of sugar and heat. We made our first batch in the test kitchen with 100% chocolate but decided the little bit of sugar in the 73% seemed to offer more enjoyment. For the heat we aimed for something on the light side of medium. People who like more heat can always add it.
The new challenge was to prepare a mole sauce that would be food safe. Our commercial kitchen is set up for small batch processing and does not have the kind of canning equipment that would provide a safe canned product. (We’ve also tasted the large national brand for mole sauce and prefer a fresher taste.) While it would be easy to open a jar and pour it all out, if someone is going to prepare chicken mole, they are planning to cook, so we realized a dehydrated mix would work fine.
So, Can-Do Real Food is pleased to announce the first of several new dehydrated recipes that will tempt your palate this season–Mole sauce!
The mix will prepare enough to feed eight people. You will need to have four pounds of boneless chicken (breasts and/or thighs) and three cups of chicken broth. We provide a simple recipe on the package. It is also feasible to use other proteins besides chicken. The mix can be hydrated with vegetable broth also. Have fun and let us know how you enjoy it.
And, watch for other new dehydrated mixes this season as the harvest progresses. We have some amazing things we cooked up in the test kitchen that our partner farms tasted this past January and approved. Now we just need to wait for the main ingredients to grow!
What’s the right way to challenge someone you know…someone you love or respect…when something that person says makes your bullshit meter twinge? How do you behave when someone you know…someone you love or respect…announces something that you know is based on air and ego?
I once worked for a man, a terrific man, one of the best. I worked for him and saw how capable he is, how truly wonderful. He did great things, the best things. Really. You would be proud to call him your friend.
I knew him to be gentle and caring and smart. Very smart. Went to several of the best schools and got great grades, superior grades. Better than almost everyone else.
But he had this one teeny tiny habit. He made up statistics. And I knew it.
I challenged him once…in private. He grinned and asked me who would know. I told him I would know. The others who worked with us might know. And he would know.
And he smiled.
Now this man is not self-serving and malicious. On the contrary, he recognizes that he was given chances in life and now, because he is in a position to do so, he wants to help others.
I love this man. Do not misunderstand me.
But I see when good men can also lie, we are in trouble.
We have a President who does not know how to admit he does not know something. We have a President who is so unsure about himself that he must take up information. He lies.
He lies so much that when he is caught and understands it is a lie, he blames it on others.
This man has no moral compass.
So how do we deal with the small lies we hear from people we love and respect?
I don’t know about you, but I will continue to let that person know I recognize what he did. I will continue to offer a level of privacy…for a time. But if the lies continue, it has to be stopped.
As soon as we as a society get accustomed to the level of lying that goes on, it will increase.
Or perhaps, it already has because we let it go. We ourselves lie at times. And when we let it go with people we know, how can we hold people we do not know accountable? It used to be that a person’s word was what made their reputation.
It starts with each one of us. No more embellishing. No more lying by omission. No more painting the picture better than it is.
It means admitting you don’t know. That you need more info. That you need some help.
When I was working my very first job out of college I did not know a lot of what I was doing. (I suspect many people play act as I did). I tried to carry it off, but I felt there was a big neon sign flashing over my head–“FRAUD.” it took maturity to understand that it is perfectly okay if I do not know something. That level of maturity helped me a lot when I started visiting farms and had no idea of the value or benefits of corn feeding or grass feeding cattle. The rancher was patient and I actually found everyone was patient. They enjoyed talking about something that they knew. And so I learned.
And I also learned that I didn’t need to bullshit any more.
For those of us who are Facebook people, you know there are often small surveys you can complete to find out if you know the slang used in a particular state or the foods eaten in different areas of the country. What would be interesting would be a questionnaire series to determine if an individual is a Planner or a Reactor.
For example, this past Saturday Graham and I participated in the March for Science at the state capitol in Salem, Oregon. Graham asked me early Saturday…what time should we leave? My mind automatically went into 30-minutes to drive there, 10 to find parking, 10 to walk from where we park and add a 10-minute fudge factor and there we had the time to leave the house. Do you do that? You might be a Planner.
I’m sitting here, past noon, thinking about pizza….and how can I work it out so we can go to a pizzeria after an evening meeting today when my husband (Graham) makes a comment about pizza. So I get off my butt and grab the bread maker and pizza dough will be ready in time for supper. Got the sausage out of the freezer, we have cheese, and there are some assorted other toppings in the frig. We’re set! How about your supper plans? Do you have them in the works early in the day (out of the freezer the night before counts) or does supper prep happen when you get that hunger pang later? Your typical routine will very much indicate if you are a Planner or a Reactor.
When I lived in Connecticut and my two older kids were elementary school age, I often checked out the camp offerings when there was a fair in February. I couldn’t believe that action needed to be taken that early but found out it sometimes was the case that a special camp with limited spots filled quickly.
Years ago I planned a family trip to Nova Scotia. It was my youngest’s location of choice for his Golden Birthday Trip so he was involved and we started planning the summer trip in February. Good thing for the ferry, because the spots for cars were sold out by March. One of the planned events turned out wonderfully. We all like to cook so on our trips we usually try to fit in a cooking class for something local.
When I contacted the chef-in-charge of the cooking classes I found listed, he did not have his schedule planned out as far as July. He asked what I would like to learn. Well, I told him I knew how to boil a lobster but another way to prepare it would be enjoyed. Or perhaps, something from Acadian cooking.
We showed up for the class, held in a teaching kitchen space at a local supermarket chain. The regular attendees had left the front row vacant for us because they had been informed about our trip and the early communication. As the chef announced we would be learning some Acadian recipes everyone cheered and one woman said that they never would’ve been offered that if it had not been for us. Now, that isn’t even the end of the story!
A couple of years ago, about six years after the trip, I received an email from the chef. It was something he had mailed out to everyone on his list that he was changing the direction of his business. I responded that it was great what he was planning to do, told him a little about my business, Can-Do Real Food,
and then reminded him who I was. He remembered us and now we can compare local food concepts on Facebook. Amazing how a bit of planning made the world a friendlier and smaller place.
Nice, but so what? All these things, being a tad late instead of early to the March, going out for pizza instead making our own, getting the kids into a certain camp, and even making a memory with a chef in Nova Scotia, have only small impact on our day to day life. But there are other more important issues concerning how the contrast between a Planner and a Reactor can influence the lives of many.
The concept of a happy marriage is more than happy bed partners. Yet many people forget to find out if they know how to TALK with one another and can work through disagreements.
The concept of raising healthy and well-adjusted children requires a lot of planning. When you react to your child’s antics, you tend to discipline in ways that are not as well thought out if, alternatively, you had planned that lesson before it actually was needed. How would you know the lesson would be needed? You simply remember your own childhood and think how you wish your parents would have handled it. Somewhere between what Mom and Dad did and what you wanted when you were a kid is the right answer, but merely smacking a butt when angry is NOT what will work long term.
The concept of leadership for any successful organization usually required that members of that organization have a way to have their voices heard. It means the leader has to be thoughtful, willing to hear all sides, and be well-educated in history, science and more in order to make decisions that are wise and sound for positive long term effect. Choosing such a leader also requires recognition that bluster does not indicate brains, that speaking his mind does not indicate an ability to get along with others, that being the king of the empire does not translate well to leading a system with others have strong voices.
And so, now it seems that we must react because so many people did not plan well.
Activism in a March for Science is but a drop in the bucket but amazing how many more people showed up to show that TRUTH and FACTS are needed….more than showed up for the inauguration. Activism is needed as you feel SOMETHING pro or con about a subject.
So, essentially, planning will ease your life from some stresses but being able to get moving in reaction to events is also something needed. We must be both–PLANNERS and REACTORS.
[Beth Rankin, who is often featured in Columnist with a View, lives with her husband Graham in McMinnville, Oregon. Beth is a multi-faceted, multi-talented person, thinker, entrepreneur, writer, crafter and activist. We encourage everyone to sign up for Beth’s blog: www.goingplaceslivinglife. wordpress.com. We thank Beth for allowing us to share her thoughts with our readers.]
I am old enough to remember pre-integration days in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Segregation to me, as a young boy, seemed perfectly normal. It was dimply how things were done, how things were, and, since our neighborhood, Crescent Hill, was completely white, I seldom saw a “Negro” unless I rode the bus downtown or went through the black neighborhood in West Central Louisville. In my mind, “they” hardly existed.
Our schools were segregated, of course, but so were churches, theatres, restaurants, parks, amateur and professional sports, restrooms, trains, swimming pools, water fountains, neighborhoods: everything. When Negroes got on a city bus or trolley car, they automatically moved to the rear before taking a seat.
Such was true throughout the American South and in parts of the North, as well. As late as the early 1960s, for example, I visited a small town in Northern Indiana that had signs posted at the city limits warning Negroes that they had to be out-of-town by sunset — believe it or not!
When I was a boy of about twelve, I was with my mother visiting her sister in Washington, D.C. As we were leaving D.C., we crossed over the Potomac into Arlington, Virginia on a Trailways bus, and the driver pulled into a small parking area. Now that we were entering “The South,” all the black riders who had been sitting near the front of the bus had to get up and move to the rear — while all the white riders who may have been sitting in the rear had to move closer to the front. Then the bus continued on further south.
It seems unbelievable to me today, but that is how it was. I guess that is one reason why I’m still a little surprised when someone who did not live back then tries to tell me that not much has changed since those pre-integration days.
Many racist attitudes are still in place, to be sure; but in a legal sense, the changes have been very great; indeed, and who would say the changes have not been for the better!