AlzAuthor Julie Bigham Shares How to Create Joy Filled Visits in the Midst of Alzheimer’s

bigham canva 2

By Julie Bigham

My passion for bringing joy to the lives of seniors began at an early age, when my gramps encouraged me to entertain at his Senior Center. Fifteen minutes of stand up, egged on by applause from the crowd, ignited a spark of love in my heart for the older generation. Thirty plus years later that spark has erupted into a full flame of passion for providing support to professional and family caregivers caring for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s.

Through my work experience as an activity professional, it became evident to me that providing high quality, compassionate care for those living with Alzheimer’s takes a village, and family engagement in any setting is vital. Families can become overwhelmed with doctor visits, medication changes, increasing care needs, and care plan meetings, not to mention the emotional stress. With everything they juggle, families can forget the importance of spending quality time having fun with their loved one, often spiraling into isolation and depression.

While some family caregivers spend hours visiting a loved one, others hope to remember them as they were. Both situations are understandable, as people find different ways of coping with the stress that accompanies an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. For the benefit of both, I set out to create a product that can help families maximize the time they spend with a loved one to assure that visits are filled with positive interaction and fun, thus eliminating common feelings of guilt and sadness.

bigham coverThe Joy Filled Visits Kit, completed in 2015, is filled with tools I found most helpful in my career, and includes an easy-to-read manual. The kit helps families create a simple plan for each visit to keep their loved one engaged in the life of the family for as long as possible. At the encouragement of a librarian, I reformatted the kit into book form to give easier, more affordable access to the same helpful information to people all around the globe.

Using the book as a guide, Joy Filled Visits also offers a 4-session class for caregivers – walking participants through a review of Alzheimer’s, the symptoms, the challenges those symptoms can create for engagement, and tips for overcoming those challenges.

Here are reviews from a few participants:

“The Joy Filled Visits program gives an encouraging, fresh approach filled with ideas to interact with your loved one in a fun, personal way.”

“Having a new expectation and new set of tools to communicate with, has [given us] … much happier days.”

“I took care of my mom for years and felt very lost as to how to help her. After taking Julie’s classes, I feel I am better able to help her; and if she is agitated, I am able to defuse the situation and give her a happier time.”

Purchase Creating Joy Filled Visits in the Midst of Alzheimer’s

About the Author

bigham photoJulie Bigham, NHCT, began her career as an activity professional in 1993. In 2016 she dedicated herself full-time to Joy Filled Visits, LLC, providing support and motivation for caregivers through training, consultation, and public speaking. She hosts the Joy Filled Visits Memory Café in Matthews, NC, and provides additional support through a free monthly newsletter. She is also a Nursing Home Certified Trainer for Second Wind Dreams®/Virtual Dementia Tour’s NC Grant project.

Connect with Julie Bigham:

email: julsbigham@yahoo.com
Website
Facebook: Joy Filled Visits, LLC
Twitter: Joy Filled Visits @julsbigham
Amazon: Creating Joy Filled Visits in the Midst of Alzheimer’s

***

For more vetted books and resources about Alzheimer’s and dementia please visit the AlzAuthors Bookstore. Reposted with permission form AlzAuthors.

“Life on Planet Alz” – An Alzheimer’s Caregiver Shares His Story

Cohen,JackFeaturedImage

By Jack S. Cohen

This is a true story about coping with my beloved wife’s devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the terrible scourge of our age.  In general, people are living longer and diseases of the aged are becoming more prevalent. The major neurological disease of the aged is in fact AD. Whenever a person is diagnosed with AD, their spouse automatically becomes their primary carer and unwittingly also becomes a prisoner of the disease.  

There have been many excellent books and descriptions of AD and its ravages upon the minds and lives of people, so why write another account?  Each case of AD is unique and two novel aspects of this account are: the focus on the way that AD imprisons both the patient and their spouse in a constant process of deterioration, and the inclusion of an almost daily journal describing raw incidents that can be enlightening for the reader, and especially for the spouse of an AD sufferer.  This illustrates the vicissitudes and the almost total preoccupation that this disease encompasses.

Cohen,Jack _LifeOnPlanetAzI hope that my particular take on this predicament as a spouse of an AD patient can help those who are dealing with this situation or who may have to do so in the future.  It illustrates how the initial shock of the situation gives way to the realization that one has to learn to cope with it, and finally the acceptance that must come with time and experience.  

How to describe memory?  It’s like a landscape where snow has fallen.  At first the surface is white and pristine. But as time goes by people trudge across the field and leave footprints.  Then a cart goes by leaving parallel tracks, and then a car drives along the lane, leaving tire marks. Then the scene gets busier, children on bikes on the way to school or to play leave their tire tracks and women going shopping and so on, until the surface is criss-crossed with memories of what had happened.  The analogy for Alzheimer’s disease is that all the tracks get inter-twined and mixed up and confusing, and then it all starts to melt!

We live on Planet Alz, which is a different planet to Earth. You may think when you see us walking down the street that we look normal, but we are not, we are actually on a different planet.  On our planet the normal rules do not apply. Everything is unpredictable, anything can happen at any moment.

The reaction to this book from family, friends, and the general public has been overwhelmingly positive.   I self-published this book in 2017, but have not widely advertised it; it is available on Amazon.com.

About the Author

Cohen,JackphotoI was born in London, UK, where I received a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University.  I moved to the US in 1966 and became a Professor of Pharmacology at Georgetown Medical School, Washington DC.  Upon retirement, I moved to Israel, where I was the Chief Scientist at the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. Now I am a Visiting Professor of Chemistry at the Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheva, where I moved to be near my married daughter.

Connect with Jack Cohen  Website  ~  Blog

AlzAuthor Bobbi Carducci Offers Hope to Alzheimer’s & Dementia Caregivers in a New Anthology of Inspiring Stories

Carducci, Bobbi 2

By Bobbi Carducci

Caregivers very often become isolated as the needs of the one-in-care progress. Even well-intentioned family and friends begin to drift away, leaving caregivers wondering if anyone understands what their life has become.

I know that feeling very well. A caregiver for my father-in-law, Rodger, for seven years, I often felt as if the rest of the world had moved on to work and family life, believing my days were easy.

Some questioned how hard could it be to stay at home and cook his meals and take him to the doctor now and then. Surely I exaggerated the difficulty.   

Worse was when I doubted myself. Was I the only one who questioned whether my loved one was faking sometimes? Or wondered why someone I cared about and rearranged my life for was suddenly treating me as the enemy? Did anyone else get angry and lose their temper or was that a character flaw unique to me? Toward the end, after weeks of little sleep and constant stress, when I prayed for it to be over, I questioned my humanity. I didn’t want him to die. I wanted the pain to end. But still, was I the only one holding that silent wish in their heart?

After speaking with caregivers and interacting with them as caregiver support group leader, and through online groups and as speaker at caregiver conferences, I heard many caregivers express the same doubts and fears inspiring me to write my second book for caregivers.

Caregiver You Are Not Alone

Caregiver –You Are Not Alone is an anthology of caregiver stories representing varying ages, genders, and family dynamics all doing the hardest job they ever had to do. Although they may be slightly different from our personal experience, they are our stories too.  

Each story is followed by an essay reflecting on my personal experience and feelings while caring for Rodger, when I felt very much alone.

About the Author

DSC_2388.JPGBobbi  Carducci is a national speaker on the subject of Alzheimer’s and dementia, how it affects entire families and how to Prepare to Care – What Adults need to Know about Alzheimer’s/ Dementia Before and After It Strikes Home. Her first book, Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver, can also be found in the AlzAuthors bookstore.

Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver is available on Amazon and through Open Books Press and her website www.bobbicarducci.com.

Follow her on Twitter @BobbiCarducci2

* * *

Reprinted with permission from AlzAuthors.com. For more vetted books about Alzheimer’s and dementia please visit the AlzAuthors bookstore.

With Recipes, Poetry, and Prose Author Miriam Green Shares her Alzheimer’s Story in “The Lost Kitchen”

Green, Mirian Meme

By Miriam Green

When my mom, Naomi, was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s I felt relieved. The doctors had finally acknowledged what our family had surmised for almost a year—Mom was losing her memory. Ok, I thought, what now?

Little in our lives changed at first. Mom still rattled around in her kitchen, she was still an avid music lover, conversationalist, and sweet companion. She could maintain her household, and even stay by herself in the evenings when my dad, Jack, was busy. But the signs were everywhere.

There was the day she tried to unlock the front door to her apartment with the wrong key. It didn’t occur to her that she should try another one, or even ask for help. I was waiting patiently on the other side as she jammed that key into the door over and over, swearing in language I had never in my life heard her utter. Daddy rushed from the shower, thinking she’d hurt herself with all the screams. It took a while to calm her down.

What did change dramatically in my life was a commitment I made to visit my parents once a week. I traveled 2½ hours each way by public transportation to be with them. Mostly, I was there for Mom. Those were wonderful mornings. We would do all manner of activities together, ambling around the city, drinking coffee, and enjoying the sunshine. I used those visits to organize my parents’ kitchen and cook them food for the week.

cover 7b Top to Bottom FadeI was privy to Mom’s anxiety over her waning memory. I held her as she cried bitter tears and told me she felt confused. It was the first indication that our roles would soon be reversed, that I was losing my mom by degrees, that the only way forward was a painful decline that inevitably led to death.

It’s been more than seven years now. I’ve learned a few things along the way— to avoid questions in my conversations with Mom; how a person’s gait can define their ill health; that front-closing bras are an Alzheimer’s intimate friend; and how to judiciously use her memory loss for our gain.

I don’t think we can ever be prepared for the strange turns and curves life throws us, but I do know that it helps me to write about them. First came the poetry. Then, what was initially a project I started with my dad as a humorous initiation into the world of cooking and caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s—we called it “The Man’s Emergency Cookbook”—eventually morphed into its current composition. Thus were born my cookbook and my weekly blog. I didn’t need to be alone in my frustrations, fears and struggles. I could connect with the community of Alzheimer’s patients, their families and caregivers who were only a short click away.

And through it all, I cooked. I took what Mom had taught me when she was still active in the kitchen and used that as a basis to experiment with easy recipes that fed my spiritual and emotional hunger. My book, The Lost Kitchen: Reflections and Recipes from an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, is a combination of recipes, poetry, and prose about my family and how we have shared the demands of Mom’s Alzheimer’s.

About the Author

Green, Miriam headshotMiriam Green writes a weekly blog, The Lost Kitchen,  featuring anecdotes about her mother’s Alzheimer’s and related recipes. Her blog also appears on the ALZ Blog from the Alzheimer’s Association.  Her poetry has been published in several journals, including Poet Lore, The Prose Poem Project, Ilanot Review, The Barefoot Review, and Poetica Magazine. Her poem, “Mercy of a Full Womb,” won the 2014 Jewish Literary Journal’s 1st anniversary competition. Her poem, “Questions My Mother Asked, Answers My Father Gave Her,” won the 2013 Reuben Rose Poetry prize. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Bar Ilan University, and a BA from Oberlin College. Miriam is a 20-year resident of Israel, and a mother of three. You can find Miriam on Facebook and Twitter at @thelostkichen.

 

* * *

Continue reading

How Saying “Yes” Helps Caregivers: Introducing “Start With Yes!”

Braxton canva

From the AlzAuthors Blog

By Cathi Braxton and Tami Neumann

Janna, a resident in a memory care facility, woke up one night and found a few staff members congregated around the nurses station.  When a nurse asked Janna what was wrong, Janna told the group that there were alley cats outside her window making all sorts of ruckus.  Several of the nurses seemed dismissive of  Janna with their sideways glances and eye rolling, but one staff member, Terry,  approached Janna with a kind but concerned smile on her face.

“Janna, let’s go see what all that ruckus is all about.  I suspect alley cats get hungry at this time of night.”  With that the two of them headed back down the hallway and disappeared into Janna’s room.

A few minutes later Terry returned content.  The other staff were less confident, “Oh, she’ll be back out… Just you wait and see.”  But Janna never came back out of her room that night.  She was checked on 30 minutes later and was fast asleep.  “How did you do it?” the nurses questioned.  Terry explained that it was as simple as “Yes, And…”  Intrigued, they all huddled together to learn what this really meant.

“Yes, And…” is the foundational rule to improv and improv, at its core, is all about creating relationships.  The concept of “Yes, And…” puts into perspective the value of creating and maintaining a relationship above all else, allowing the flexibility to create something meaningful out of nothing.

Copy of Start With YES CoverWith our first book, Start with Yes! we dive into two profound improv rules anchored in connection. This quick read was tested amongst various age groups and caregiving abilities, proving to be accessible to all readers!  Additionally, Start with Yes! was formatted in such a way that even the busiest caregiver could glean insight and practical concepts immediately.  By committing just 10 minutes per night, the book can be accomplished in less than a week.

Confidence becomes shaken when a novice caregiver feels overwhelmed by multiple steps, instructions and long dissertations.   It was important for us to create a book that was digestible, funny, entertaining, educating, and most of all, insightful. Start with Yes! is a book that embraces neutral terminology, assisting caregivers in better understanding themselves and therefore the situation around them.

Here’s what readers are saying:

“This book is required reading for anyone caring for a person living with dementia. The Dementia RAW method is an innovative and compassionate approach that shows, through the rules of improv and the four pillars of empathy, how communications can move from disruptive frustration to peaceful understanding and ease. Cathy and Tami’s signature tell-it-like-it-is style coupled with their years of clinical training and research will transform your caregiving experience.” – Colleen Kavanaugh, Owner of The Longest Dance

“I read Start with Yes! late in my journey with my wife, Maureen, as her Alzheimer’s progressed. I was working hard to understand what my wife was thinking, and was not always successful. Start with Yes! gave me another, easy to remember method to keep my focus on what my wife was experiencing. I have found great peace and comfort in knowing that going into my wife’s world made all the difference for her and for me. We avoided so many confrontations in her last year because I paused and tried to agree with her, even knowing we could not always follow through on something. Maureen was satisfied that I had said “yes”.  She did not have to become agitated and angry. Our journey was hard and saying “yes” can be challenging but I don’t regret a minute and thank God I was able to peacefully walk her home. I regularly mention the Start with Yes! book when I talk with friends who are going through the same journey with a parent or spouse.” – Bill, Alzheimers Support Group Attendee

“Start with Yes! is a must-read for all those who interact, work or live with people living with dementia.The content will change the way you see dementia and will give you an arsenal of tools and a clear process on how to effectively interact, listen and respond to those with dementia in a collaborative fashion.  Collaboration makes the person living with dementia feel valued as you tap in to their past and present emotions, memories, likes and dislikes. The method you learn in Start with Yes! proves to be a win-win for everyone touched by the challenges of dementia. – Allison Elkow Lazicky

Purchase Start with Yes!

About the Dementia RAW Method

The cofounders of Silver Dawn Training Institute, Tami Neumann and Cathy Braxton, created the Dementia RAW Method, an introspective improv approach to communication. The goal was to improve the quality of life for those living with dementia by educating, building confidence in and empowering all types of caregivers with a simple yet profound manner of connection. Cathy and Tami focus on alleviating difficult jargon, streamline the concept of communication, build confidence and create a “lifestyle” of connection that could be attained by anyone regardless of age or education level.

Braxton

(l) Cathy Braxton (r) Tami Neumann

About Author Tami Neumann

As the Chief Operations Officer of Silver Dawn Training Institute, Tami believes in taking the unconventional steps needed to create a change in culture that the aging community is in desperate need of.  This is reflected in the Dementia RAW Method, CDCS Certification Program and the Dinner Series in which they talk openly and honestly about Death, Dying & Aging, and Sexuality.  Tami is a Certified Dementia Practitioner, and completed all coursework in Nursing Home Administration while spending over 20 years in the Aging Industry.  Over the past 4 years she has hosted the Wego Award Nominated podcast, Conversations In Care & compiled a book based on the conversations she has had on her podcast. Currently, she studies improv under the direction of Antoine McKay and recently launched her new podcast Unscripted:  Life Improvised.

About Author Cathy Braxton

As the Chief Education Officer of Silver Dawn Training Institute, Cathy believes in creating thought-provoking educational content.  Her unapologetic style, allows caregivers to dig deep into empathy and provides a safe space for exploration into this important foundational concept for the Dementia RAW Method, and the Certified Dementia Communication Specialist Training.  She is a published author and blogger for The Chicago Tribune and was the Co-Ambassador for the Chicago Chapter of Aging 2.0 2015-2017.  Cathy has received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Illinois and has completed all coursework for her M.A. in Health Psychology and Gerontology Studies.  Cathy has been in the industry over 20 years in the aging industry managing memory care units, directing activity programs, providing case management and service coordination, and facilitating support groups.

Connect with the Authors

Facebook

Instagram

Email: sdti@DementiaRAW.com

Website

* * *

For more vetted books on 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. I am a co-founder and admin.

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Carol B. Amos Shares “H.O.P.E. for the Alzheimer’s Journey”

Amos, Carol graphic copy

By Carol B. Amos

My two brothers and I were devastated when our mother began displaying signs of Alzheimer’s disease in 2002. She lived alone in her home and her nearest adult child lived four hours away. We banded together to face this challenge head-on. We began a period of observing, investigating, collaborating, and careful listening to gain insight into the situation. We visited and called our mother more often. We each solicited advice from caregivers we knew and visited our local Alzheimer’s Association office.

My brothers and I worked hard to help our mother maintain her independence and remain in her home. We worked with her doctors, and after multiple attempts Aricept was prescribed. We hired a social worker and nurse to assist her. When “issues” arose, we never knew if an event occurred as she explained. This was extremely frustrating to us. Eventually a dangerous incident demonstrated that she could no longer live alone. It was difficult taking responsibility for our strong, independent mother.

I learned about Alzheimer’s disease through reading, attending workshops, observing caregivers, and from on-the-job training. I have learned from my successes and my failures during this eleven-year period. I have shared my learning, experience, and encouragement with friends, family, and colleagues as they embarked on their journey. I found that a little information made a big difference in their caregiving, so I wrote the book “H.O.P.E. for the Alzheimer’s Journey.” Help, organization, preparation, and education can make the Alzheimer’s journey less stressful and more rewarding.

Final Approved Cover copy“H.O.P.E. for the Alzheimer’s Journey” equips caregivers for their journey. The book is a combination of structured information, insights, and personal narratives to demonstrate the concepts. The concepts are conveyed in an open, honest, and creative manner using original family email communications. These emails provide insight into our thoughts, concerns, emotions, and deliberations as we realized our mother’s memory loss, sought a diagnosis and treatment, selected housing options, and developed care strategies as our mother continued to deteriorate. The book introduces The Caregiving Principle™, a simple and novel approach that provides a deeper understanding of the person with Alzheimer’s and a framework for the caregiver’s role. The Caregiving Principle™ states that the amount and type of caregiving required is directly related to the needs and capability of the person requiring care. In other words:

“Needs of the Person” – “Needs Filled by the Person” = “Needs to be Filled by the Caregiver(s)

Simply put, if a person has needs and cannot provide for all of their own needs then someone else must provide those needs. The “someone else” is a caregiver. The principle utilizes a holistic approach by using Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to define a person’s needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs increased my understanding of my mother.

“H.O.P.E. for the Alzheimer’s Journey” has been a blessing to many caregivers since the pre-release in May 2018. My ultimate goal is for the book to become obsolete. I am actively involved with fundraising and advocacy efforts to increase research so that a cure is found for Alzheimer’s disease.

Purchase H.O.P.E for the Alzheimer’s Journey

About the Author

Carol B. Amos started her Alzheimer’s journey when her mother started having memory problems. Carol has immersed herself in Alzheimer’s education by reading and attending conferences, workshops, and support groups. Carol is a CARES Dementia Specialist and is Alzheimer’s Association essentiALZ Plus certified. She was the winner of the 2012 “Your Favorite Memory” essay contest sponsored by the Delaware Valley Alzheimer’s Association. She has a passion to share her knowledge and make the journey for Alzheimer’s caregivers less stressful and more rewarding. She is also working to help eliminate Alzheimer’s disease as an Alzheimer’s Association volunteer, fundraiser, and advocate.

Carol has a B.S. and M.Eng. in chemical engineering from Cornell University. She retired from a thirty-five-year career at The DuPont Company. She is active in her church (youth ministry, women’s ministry, usher board, and construction committee). She has been married to her husband, Alvin, for nineteen years. She enjoys tennis, travel, and gardening at her home in Delaware.

Connect with Carol B. Amos

Website

Twitter

LinkedIn

Facebook

Amazon

***

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. I am a co-founder and admin.

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Meet Susan Cushman and Her Memoir “Tangles & Plaques”

cushman, susan

By Susan Cushman

My mother, Effie Johnson, was second generation Alzheimer’s. Her mother, Emma Sue (for whom I was named) died from Alzheimer’s when she was 87 years old in 1986, in the same nursing home in Jackson, Mississippi where my mother would spend the final eight years of her life. I remember watching my mother care for “Mamaw” and wondering what our future might bring.

Twenty years later, in 2006, I moved Mother into assisted living. My father had died of cancer in 1998, leaving Mother alone. After eight years of watching her gradual decline and taking on more of her day-to-day responsibilities, especially her finances, I offered first to move her in with us—which she declined—and second to move her to Memphis to an assisted living home. She begged me to let her stay in Jackson, which I did. This meant I would spend the next ten years making the 400-mile round trip to participate in her caregiving, although she did have help, first in assisted living, and finally in a nursing home. Continue reading