Friday, February 17, 2012

Where Are the Keys? Unlocking Alzheimer's

A friend gave me an article quite some time ago.  It took me awhile to read it.  When I did I was inspired.  Then I lost the article.  Tonight she and I talked about the article and told me it was from the Parade Magazine.  Tonight I googled Parade Magazine & Alzheimer's.

Up popped a number of articles.  The one I was looking for was titled "Unlocking the Silent Prison" .  Christine Wicker tells how Michelle S Bourgeois, a speech-pathology professor is an expert at communicating with people who have dementia.

One strategy she recommended was memory flashcards. She said, "that people with Alzheimer's can read words if the print is large enough."  Bourgeois has been using these strategies for the last 20 years.  She has trained countless people how to use them.  When I was taking care of my mother, I wish I had been trained by her.

She has written a book about her methods and strategies, "Memory Books and Other Graphic Cuing Systems: practical communication and memory aids for adults with dementia".  The title is a little wordy, but it looks like it has some very valuable suggestions.

When my mother was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer's in 1998, I knew next to nothing about the disease. As I started my journey, I did not know where to go.  I was fortunate to have great family support and the support of good friends.  I also met caring professionals that made a positive difference in our lives.  Little by little I found help.  I tried many different things, some worked some didn't.  Sometimes I wonder if I could have had more training with follow up, would things have been easier?

I continue to read research about Alzheimer's, I try to keep up on what other people have found that works.  Thankfully it is easier to find information and support.  Doctors and other medical professionals are more informed about the disease.  

My mother lived with me from 1998 until Dec 2006 when I was hospitalized with Pancreatitis. She passed away June 2007.  Today I learned that Alzheimer's is the third leading cause of death world wide.  This silver tsunami, this thief of memory needs to be stopped.  But until it is stopped we need to share information so caregivers have the best tools available to care for people with neurological disorders like Alzheimer's.  

When I was in the middle of caring for Mom, I just needed help with how to take better care of her.  How to deal with issues like her fear of showers.  How to keep her safe when she wandered.  I experimented with many things.  Now there is GPS in shoes.

I have read many stories of how family members have taken their talents and applied them to caring for and loving their family member.  The photographers who have made documentaries, the authors who have written books, the techie people who have developed software.  The list goes on.  We have been faced with great odds and we have used our talents to try and make a difference.  We have done it for our loved ones. We continue on because we have the experience - we were the first responders - we were boots on the ground.

I hope that I can share some of the things that worked with my mom.  I also try to share information that looks promising.  Networking and sharing information with each other is the key to solving these neurological diseases and the dementia that accompany them.

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