Paul, my elderly father-in-law, telephoned: “Silvia has lost her lights.” Silvia was his wife. She had lost what?
Paul began to speak in riddles. Circumlocutions around a word. Then we had to guess. Paul was losing language.
And it took us months to grasp that this wasn’t ordinary aging, but for Paul a sign of oncoming Alzheimer’s.
My article “God and Alzheimer’s” was featured in the Friday edition of the Huffington Post in their religion section. I’m so pleased to get this kind of national exposure for a subject that is near and dear to my heart.
A yellow school bus stops kitty-corner from my house. A mom and dad walk their boy with loaded backpack to Flynn Park School. Friends arrive from Connecticut to deliver their son to his freshman year at Washington University. I picture new faces on opening day of my French teaching years. I hear again the first hello-bonjour of the fall semester.
In “The Sense of an Ending” ( New Yorker, 5/20/13), Rebecca Mead shows how the Beatitudes Campus in Phoenix offers dementia care with a focus on flexibility and calm. Hershey kisses, “pleasurable moments,” and acceptance of patients’ decline anchor the program. Worth a read as is my Alzheimer’s caregiving memoir SWIMMING SOLO.
Stone Phillips’ terrific documentary debuted on May 7 on St. Louis’s PBS channel. It’s a warm story of adult children making a tough decision about moving their aging parents. Caregivers will identify with the adult children, the untenable situation, and the endearing elderly couple. It’s great to see the visuals, hear the vintage music. In my memoir, SWIMMING SOLO, I tackle the same dilemmas as my husband and I look after our 4 aging parents with Alzheimer’s. Read the first chapter at www.susanrava.com.
Carol Mithers captures the “singularity” of the old and the love and grief of caregiving in “Suddenly, They’re All Gone” (NYT 3/22/13). She talks about “drowning. . . as endless crises unspooled.” That same feeling of going-under inspired the title of my Alzheimer’s caregiving story, SWIMMING SOLO. http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/22/suddenly-theyre-all-gone/
March in Missouri: daffodils barely peek up, a touch of bright green. Wind whips snow flurries around. Great indoor weather for spring cleaning, reading, writing, and planning the garden. Pat Summitt’s new book on her own early-onset Alzheimer’s disease beckons. And with Collin Tong of Seattle, I continue editing a collection of Alzheimer’s caregiver stories which we’re tentatively calling PORTRAITS IN CAREGIVING.
A shared online caregivers calendar–practical and helpful idea explored by Olivia Judson on the Op-Ed page, NYT, 1/23/13. When distance or other factors separate caregivers, Hudson proposes keeping in touch with brief notations on a shared calendar. She and her brother did that as their father–who lived alone–declined. Caregivers for aging friends or family–especially those with Alzheimer’s–need status updates. Information helps with adapting and fine-tuning care so the elderly can remain as safe and independent as possible. I kept notes on my own calendar as my father and mother declined with Alzheimer’s. Those notes eventually became part of SWIMMING SOLO, my family caregiving memoir. And some jots about my mother and her Siamese cat are part of my piece in the forthcoming PORTRAITS IN CAREGIVING, an anthology that Collin Tong and and I are editing.
A long quiet spell of family happenings punctuated by two different autumn SWIMMING SOLO gigs: one at a women’s luncheon, one at a Washington University graduate social work class. In both places, questions and comments poured out. At lunch the women were old enough to have spouses, friends, even themselves becoming forgetful. “Is it Alzheimer’s?” was underlying all their concerns. At the Social Work School, the 2nd year students tried to picture themselves running a family decision-making meeting and keeping fur from flying. Everyone at every event wonders whether caregiving or Alzheimer’s disease itself is the more daunting to contemplate.
Thomas L. Friedman and Bruce Feiler highlight personal caregiving experience and policy caregiving issues as boomers age. See the Sunday NYT (7/29/12). Feiler signals the downward progression of aging parents. Friedman points out the policy spin-off of growing demands for elder care, especially for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
For a caregiving story, my memoir SWIMMING SOLO tells our family’s experiences with 4 aging parents. It begins and ends with warm family gatherings on the shores of Lake Michigan: a good summer read with a lived perspective on caregiving.