Thursday, July 15, 2010

Boppa Blog rebuilt

In 2009 my iweb was some how corrupted and in the process of fixing it I lost parts of my Boppa Blog. I have now reposted to this new blog the entries I was able to save. This blog now begins with the article I wrote for the Michigan Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (MADRC) newsletter back in 2008. As I work on this blog I will add the photos that go with each of the older entries.
My hope is to start a dialogue with other people who are caring for Alzheimer's patients.

Boppa Blog Issue 2

Article for MADRC Reflections Fall/Winter 2008
When someone you love does not remember or understand whom you are talking about, and they should, it is quite upsetting. Last Christmas, helping Dad decorate his tree, I kept referring to “Mom” as the one who crocheted the little stockings I had been hanging. My Dad said “Who?” I said “Mom, my mother. Your wife, Helen.” Dad went into the bedroom and brought out a photo of my mother taken on their wedding day. He had made the connection when I said my mother’s name. This incident shows how important it is for the caregiver to provide the Alzheimer’s patient with new paths to their memories again and again.
My book, A Walk With Boppa: A Portrait of Early Stage Alzheimer’s, references books, web sites, movies, and children’s books to help people learn more about Alzheimer’s. The personal-journal entries give an honest picture of the warning signs, the reactions, and the results of Alzheimer’s. Four years ago my family and I did not realize just how important creating these new paths to old memories would become. Our goal at that time was to get a diagnosis, move Dad to a place closer to us, and make sure his financial future was secure. Over the years my sister and I have discovered that Dad does remember certain things and people if he is reminded many times, has a photo to look at, or sees them on a regular basis.
I give Dad photos all the time, of his great grandchildren, grandchildren, children, other family members and all the special occasions. When I print them I leave a generous border to write names and dates on the front of the photos. My sister and I recently hung two cloth photo boards, with ribbon criss-crossed so you can easily slip photos behind the ribbon, over his dinning room table. We then arranged framed family photos all around the photo boards. He can now sit at the table and look at the photos with names and dates. He tells me he looks at them every day.
When Dad was first diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s, I asked him if he would like to participate in a research study. He liked that idea because he would be doing something to help others. Dad went through his first neuropsychological test on November 15, 2004 at the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (MADRC). This test is a comprehensive three-hour evaluation of cognitive and physical abilities, and is used in the process of diagnosing early stage Alzheimer’s disease. He has had three neuro-psych tests and been in several studies. Last winter my sister took Dad to a ten week Tai Chi study. This past summer he participated in the University of Michigan Memory & Aging Project and a brain imaging study for MADRC. By participating in the research studies, maybe some day soon the cause of Alzheimer’s disease or an easier method of diagnosis will be discovered.

Boppa Blog Issue 3

Be like a delicate flower and practice Tai Chi with an Alzheimer’s patient.

Tai Chi Tuesdays
Two weeks ago Lorrie and I started practicing Tai Chi with Dad on Tuesday evenings. We perform the seven different moves that Lorrie and Dad learned last winter in the MADRC Tai Chi study. The first is just deep breathing; second, the shoulder lift; third, is what we call, raising the ball & pushing it down; fourth, is wax on, wax off; fifth, is the puppet; seventh, is walking heel toe and then toe heel in a circle. All of these moves we do eight to ten times to easy listening music. Dad starts out thinking he can’t do it, and as he follows Lorrie, to the music, he becomes smoother and smoother in his moves. Last week I was amazed at how Dad watched and followed Lorrie so completely. After about a half hour we then listen to some forties music, especially Bing Crosby’s “Swingin On A Star,” which is Dad’s favorite. We are hoping to do this every Tuesday throughout the winter.
Tai Chi movements are like being a delicate flower swaying purposefully in a light breeze.

Boppa Blog Issue 4

Tenet #3 in Learning To Speak Alzheimer’s by Joanne Koenig Coste “Focus on remaining skills” (85).

Another Tai Chi Tuesday
The latest Alzheimer’s tidbit - Remember to Simplify
I thought I was doing just that when I connected a timer to Dad’s christmas tree, but it turns out he just did not understand the concept. Dad kept unplugging the timer from the wall and plugging it into a strip we have behind the entertainment center. Three times I plugged it back into the wall and set the correct time. The third time I put a note under the tree explaining when it would turn on and off and a note to “Not Touch it.” The fourth time when Dad called and said the tree lights came on at 9:00 at night when they were suppose to be turning off I realized the timer wasn’t working. In the middle of the night I remembered Joanne Koenig Coste’s number one tenet: “Simplify the environment” (7). Sometimes the solution is so simple you can’t see it. So, when I went to Dad’s for a special breakfast last Saturday morning I unplugged the timer and put the tree lights switch where Dad could easily turn it on and off himself. The timer has been retired!
Tonight after practicing our Tai Chi, Dad made the comment that he really liked the new switch for the tree lights.
So, remember to simplify. No high tech timers.

Boppa Blog Issue 5

Social gatherings are vital for Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers.
Tenet #5 in Learning To Speak Alzheimer’s by Joanne Koenig Coste
“Enrich the patient’s life” (127).

A Blustery Day!
The holidays are over and the reality of winter has set in with a solum frigidity. Dad received many new ornaments, art work, shirts, posters, and a new watch for Christmas. Last Tuesday Lorrie and I started Tai Chi back up and we did a little furniture arranging to give Dad’s apartment a 2009 look. I thought Dad would call the next day and say “Who moved my furniture?” Instead he called Lorrie and told her he loved it! Sometimes a little change can help with the winter blahs.
We have chosen not to take Dad outside since the temperature has been zero or below, because he is prone to bronchitis. So, today I’m going to take over the frames I got for his airplane posters my brother gave him for Christmas. I will assemble them and we will watch a movie with him. Lorrie is going to meet me there to help hang the posters in his bedroom. I thought it would be fun to give his bedroom an airplane theme. We can put together some B 17 and B 24 model airplanes and hang them from the ceiling. Dad loves to tell people about when he was in the army and put some 60+ hrs in the Liberator B 24.
Today would have been Dad and Mom’s 60th wedding anniversary. My daughter got married on this day 11 years ago. Happy anniversary Michelle & Richard!

Hope this finds you all healthy and staying warm.

It looks cold outside but cozy inside! I am so thankful Richard and I chose this day to get married. It reminds me of one of the best couples I've ever known! I only wish I could give Boppa a big hug. It's hard being so far away from him, but it helps knowing that there are loved ones around him keeping him busy!



Boppa Blog Issue 6

“Tenet #4: Live in the Patient’s World: Behavioral Changes” Joanne Koenig Coste (108).

Valentine’s Day
Lorrie and I went to Dad’s Valentine’s Day party on Saturday. The entertainment was Leander, who sings a lot of Motown songs. We sing along and do a little chair dancing. The little lady sitting at the table with Dad is Marion, she is ninety-five, feisty, and funny. It was a fun wintry afternoon.
Today was Tai Chi Tuesday - We exercised for about thirty minutes. Then we looked through the little photo book I brought for Dad of Sam & Aja’s wedding. I had forgotten the envelope with Ceci’s latest photos. I will have to bring them Thursday, when I meet Lorrie and Dad at the Geriatric Clinic for his checkup. This is what caregivers do a lot. There’s always another doctor appointment. And even though the neurologists did not see a change in Dad’s latest CT scan, Lorrie and I have observed a big change in his memory in the last year. Our adventure with Alzheimer’s continues.

Boppa Blog Issue 7

Boppa with Aja & Sam
January 25, 2009 Boppa attended his grandson, Sam’s, wedding. It was a wonderful time, but if you asked Dad today if he remembers attending, he would say no. In fact, if you had asked him the day after he would have said no. So, as Joanne Koenig Coste suggests, in Learning To Speak Alzheimer’s, you can either change the subject or you can recount how much fun you had, who you got to see, and even what you ate.
I give Dad photos of the event and put them on his photo board, so that we can talk about the event. I try to include photos with him in them. The photo above, showing him shaking hands, is an example of what Coste suggests to do when the patient does not remember who you are, simply introduce yourself and carry on with the conversation. I have watched this happen many times with Dad. He just introduces himself, when he does not remember the person. The young man Dad is shaking hands with is Aja’s brother, Mike, and Dad had just met him that day.
Coste also suggests not helping the person remember, but I find this very hard to do, so I refer to the photo, and because Dad looks at his photos everyday, sometimes it gives him faces to connect with. I’m not saying this will work with every early stage Alzheimer’s patient, but it may help.

Rebuilding the Boppa Blog

Boppa Blog
Issue #8
A Best Friend Initiates Activities, state Virginia Bell & David Troxel in The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care. Because the Alzheimer’s patient often loses the ability to initiate activities, it is a mistake to always ask the patient if he/she wants to do something. The answer will often be “No.” A Best Friend simply says, “Come on, let’s go for a walk. It’s a beautiful day.” or “I would like to take a walk. Come on, join me” (Bell 49).

Monday, April 27, 2009
New Spring Wardrobe for Boppa
Lorrie & I joined Dad for a Spring/Easter Brunch at American House on Saturday April 11th. Sunday we went to Lorrie & Rod’s for dinner. Rod’s Mom Al and his Aunt Mabel joined us. (Photos above)
After brunch that Saturday we took Dad shopping at Kohl’s for some new, larger pants. This little outing was an adventure as usual. I sent Dad into the fitting room with a pair of pants a size larger than the ones he had on. Luckily there wasn’t anyone else around, so I could wait right outside. Several minutes went by and I finally asked Dad if he had the pants on. He said “No, they are too big!” Lorrie and I both felt it was important to get Dad into bigger pants, since he had gained another seven pounds. The pants he was wearing were too tight and had to be wore under his stomach.
I don’t have any qualms about dressing my father. So, I went into the fitting room, had Dad step into the pants, pulled them up, buttoned & zipped them. Then I sent him out to show Lorrie. She uses humor a lot when dealing with Dad’s Alzheimer moments, and this was definitely one of those moments. The new pants did fit perfect around his stomach. Lorrie agreed, laughed a little and told him he looked great. Dad said “I won’t wear them. Their too big!” My sister and I just looked at each other and smiled, and told him again they looked great and they fit perfect.
We picked out two more pair and three shirts to go with them. During this process Dad just kept muttering he wouldn’t wear them, he didn’t need them, and why were we buying them.
One thing we have learned is not to listen to the Alzheimer’s, because usually the next day Dad will not remember. I bought the new outfits, took them home, washed, ironed and hemmed the pants. The next day, Easter Sunday, I took the new clothes to Dad and said “Happy Easter here are your Easter Clothes, let’s pick out an Easter outfit to wear to Lorrie’s. He put on the new pants and shirt without one word of objection. When we got to Lorrie & Rod’s everyone complimented him on his new outfit.
A month and a half ago we hired a registered/bonded nurse to make sure Dad gets a shower on Tuesday and Friday. She has worked with many people at American House since 1997, and is really good with Dad. She actually gave Dad a shower the first time, but since then Dad gets in the shower before she arrives. But, she said Dad does fine taking a shower by himself, so she just makes sure he is clean, washed his hair, and put on clean clothes. She is very glad we got Dad larger pants, getting dressed is much easier for him.
So my advice this month is don’t listen to those Alzheimer’s moments, listen to your heart and head, and do whatever needs to be done.
After dinner Easter Sunday Dad told me “I like my new clothes,” and gave me a hug. This disease never ceases to amaze me.

Tenet#4 cont.: Live in the Patient’s World: Behavioral Changes
Not Retaining Information or Memory of Events, such as a wedding (110). Coste suggests you can say “We had such a lovely time and the chocolate cake was delicious” (110).