From the AlzAuthors Blog: Occupational Therapist Barbara Smith Teaches Alzheimer’s Caregivers New Skills in “Still Giving Kisses”

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By Barbara Smith

I am an occupational therapist, specializing in developmental disabilities. I had never planned to work in the area of geriatrics. But when my mother developed Alzheimer’s disease, I was thrust into the world of home care, Medicare, assisted living and nursing homes. I read numerous books and learned the lingo of lawyers, the health care bureaucracy and gerontology.

Fortunately, as an occupational therapist, I have years of experience adapting environments and creating activities to promote functional skills and quality of life. I wrote this book to share how I helped my mother enjoy her life as best as possible, as she regressed through the stages. I could not help but notice that the residents in my mom’s assisted living and then her nursing home had few visitors.

I believe that there are many reasons for this, but common ones are:

  • Friends and loved ones are scared and confused about the person’s decline
  • Friends and family do not know how to relate to a person who may no longer speak or seem to recognize them.
  • And most sadly, friends and family think that the person has so little awareness that their presence is of no value.

still giving kisses copyMy primary goal in writing Still Giving Kisses: Helping and Enjoying the Alzheimer’s Victim You Love was to offer an alternative to the above situations. Like many others, I was in the “sandwich generation.” My son was a tween and teen during these years and had many developmental and social challenges related to autism. The time crunch from work and family obligations naturally made spending time with my mom difficult–as I’m sure is true for millions of other caregivers. However, when loved ones learn how to help and actually enjoy being with this person, the relationship takes on a beautiful and mutually beneficial meaning. Given the right information and support, family and friends can learn how to spend quality time with a loved one that will create positive memories.

The title of this book reflects one of the few remaining motor acts my mother was able to perform during the last few months of her life. When she was no longer speaking, non-ambulatory and unable to eat independently, she was still able to pucker up her lips to communicate “I love you, come over for my kiss.” This was a highly significant motor act, one that symbolizes a continuing connectedness between myself and the Alzheimer’s victim I loved.

There are many books on the market that describe the symptoms and stages of Alzheimer’s disease and behavioral interventions that promote function. Often this information is dry and overwhelming. There are also many highly readable memoirs that give the spouse, adult-children or the victim’s point of view. In writing, Still Giving Kisses, I strove to provide both.

You will read a compelling memoir of a woman whose earlier mental health problems compounded the many challenges of memory impairment. The many therapeutic techniques, adaptations and teaching tools I share are all tricks of the occupational therapy trade, along with my own unique touch. Extensive resources and medical, legal and care-giving information provide survival tools.

Although I wrote this book primarily for friends and family of Alzheimer’s victims, Still Giving Kisses provides a framework for health care professionals entering the field of geriatrics. Indeed, I wish this resource had been available when my mother began showing the earliest symptoms. I hope that my book helps you to enjoy a journey that nobody chooses to take . . .

Purchase Still Giving Kisses

About the Author

Barbara Smith is an occupational therapist specializing in developmental disabilities. She discovered a penchant for creating highly effective therapeutic activities out of household materials such as detergent bottles, cardboard boxes and newspapers. Her book The Recycling Occupational Therapist describes how to fabricate and use these activities.

Barbara’s second book From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills (published by Therapro, Inc. 2011) is written for parents with typically developing children from ages birth through five years to help develop the skills needed to read and write. In addition, the activity adaptations make learning easier for children with sensory, motor or sensory challenges.

From Flapping to Function: A Parent’s Guide to Autism and Hand Skills is written for parents of children who have or they suspect may have an autism spectrum disorder. Readers will learn how autism impacts the development of hand skills and to use the teaching strategies and adaptations that help children reach their potentials to perform everyday functional activities and academic skills in school.

Connect with Barbara Smith: books, courses, educational videos and social media

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From the AlzAuthors Blog: Michelle Spray Writes About Her Novel “Lost Memories Found Hope: A Granddaughter’s Story of Love throughout Alzheimer’s”

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By Michelle Spray

I truly feel honored to be included as an integral part of the AlzAuthors group. Not only have I written a book with will make my grandmother proud, I have lived the caregiving experience one hundred percent. I was Grandma’s primary caregiver for seven years and got my on-the-job training simply because I lived there. It was up to me. I learned how to cope, distract, exercise patience, and lean on hope to get through all the emotions of dementia and eventually an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. I understand the stress that families are going through, including worrying and grieving for the Grandma I knew even though she was still alive. The day she no longer recognized me is a moment that will forever be etched on my heart.

Lost Memories front cover 2018I didn’t want to write a sad book about Alzheimer’s because that had already been done, so I used the opportunity to write a fictional story based on Grandma’s Alzheimer’s. I included the funny things she’d say, or how sometimes, even in the midst of it all, she would have a quick reply or joke, that always took me by surprise. At the end of the day, it would be these funny moments that helped me through all times I felt like crying; waiting for the mailman who already came, having her accuse me of stealing her teeth, telling me that the golden years weren’t really golden but instead a little rusty. When I’d ask her how she was feeling, she would tap the table and say, “with my hands.” Oh, how I miss her.

An important thing to note during the book is that I (or Jillian, the granddaughter in this novella) tried to do it all myself until I almost broke. So one thing I can’t stress enough to caregivers is to get help early. Take help when offered, ask for help, set appointments for someone else to take over so you can have a break and leave the house without worrying. Even small moments of respite can do wonders. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t make you incapable, it can only help you be a better caregiver.

All of my reviewers agree that Grandma would be proud of the work I’ve done with this book, bringing her story and memories to life. The overall consensus is that I’ve been able to reflect hope out of difficult moments while always remaining true to Grandma’s personality, love, and feistiness. She was a true pillar in my life. I stepped up when she needed me without question just as she had done for me. For that, I am truly grateful and proud.

This book is dedicated to all those in the thick of their own Alzheimer’s journey. Stay hopeful, ask for help, and keep a journal which may very well be the next AlzAuthors book to help end the stigma of Alzheimer’s.

Purchase “Lost Memories Found Hope: A Granddaughter’s Story of Love throughout Alzheimer’s”

 

About the Author

my profile picMichelle Spray is an additional needs mom living in Connecticut. She’s proud to supply an underlying theme of hope and inspiration in all of her books.

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For more vetted books about Alzheimer’s and dementia please visit the AlzAuthors Bookstore. Reposted with permission of AlzAuthors, the global community of authors and readers whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s and dementia.