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CAREGIVERS CALENDAR

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.

EVERYONE WONDERS

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.

CAREGIVING MAKES NEWS

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.

HISTORIC 2 DAYS FOR ALZHEIMER’S

Two big days as the National Plan To Address Alzheimer’s Disease is released on 5/15/12 and as a clinical drug trial for Early-Onset Alzheimer’s is tested on an extended family in Colombia. We’re pushing forward with 2025 as a goal for prevention and treatment of AD.

GET MOVING To Decrease Alzheimer’s Risk

Physical activity helps protect against cognitive decline as in Alzheimer’s, says “Regimens” in the NYT Science Section (5/1/12). In the NYT Review (4/29/12) Gretchen Reynolds finds “aerobic workouts. . .improve brain power.” Gentle aerobic workouts for seniors. But we need to get up and get moving.

NEW WORK ON ALZHEIMER’S CAREGIVING

Watch for a forthcoming new work on Alzheimer’s caregiving edited by Collin Tong, freelance journalist in Seattle, and co-edited by Susan Rava, author of SWIMMING SOLO. PROFILES IN CAREGIVING: JOURNEYS WITH ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE collects helpful and moving contributions from a wide variety of Alzheimer’s caregivers. It will be a gift for future caregivers as they set out on their own journeys.

SEARCH FOR MEANING in Seattle

I am soon on my way to Seattle to present my new piece, “God & Alzheimer’s,” at the Seattle University Search for Meaning Book Festival on Sat., Feb. 4 at 1 p. m. (www.searchformeaning.us) This terrific trip gives me a chance to visit with new Alzheimer’s Association and Senior Services colleagues and to catch up with friends of SWIMMING SOLO (www.swimmingsolo.com). As an added bonus, I get to visit with 2 of my children and spouses, and to see grandchildren including a drummer in his band concert and one playing basketball.

JOY

“Go out with joy” says the prophet Isaiah and the “trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (55:12) I used to long for big, exuberant joy this time of year–a universal celebration of God’s outreach.

Joy today has shrunk in size for me, but not in intensity. Joy is now as tiny as the word itself. Not the trees clapping, but one tree alone changing seasons before my house before my eyes, red and gold from the top down, lingering leaves until the first harsh winter wind catches those leaves and sends them swirling: a tiny morning joy out my window. Joy is manifest in the small magnificent daily detail around me that accompanies my going out and my coming in, morning and evening.

MOTHERS & DAUGHTERS

Daughters & their aging mothers have been on my mind. As I wrote about my own mother in SWIMMING SOLO, I remembered teaching 3 of my favorite French authors who wrote about their mothers at the end of life: Colette, Simone de Beauvoir, & Annie Ernaux. And Alzheimer’s likely figured in at least one decline, Annnie Ernaux’s mother. On a fall day, I think of these portraits of French mothers and daughters, and of my own mother who, like one of autumn’s final flowers, slowly faded from purple to mauve.

About Pat Robertson

Colleen Campbell says it so well: Alzheimer’s does not mean a person is “gone.” Read her article at:
http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/columns/colleen-carroll-campbell/article_2e27636a-4f06-5188-a1d0-6d77b118109c.html
And read my memoir SWIMMING SOLO for a full family panorama of my husband’s parents and my parents, all of whom had Alzheimer’s. And their vivid, funny personalities often shone through reminding us of how important it is to have mindful, humane, and individualized caregiving.