Dementia and Friends: Why We Walk for a Cure

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s.  You probably know someone who has been touched by this disease, whether they have the diagnosis themselves or someone they love or know actually has it. Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurological disease for which there is no cure.


Lady-Links believe that one day there will be a cure through medical research.  That’s why many of the Lady-Links participated in the Walk  to End Alzheimer’s Disease held this month on the grounds of our retirement community.  We have seen firsthand the effects of what this disease can do to our friends and families, and we want to be a part of the solution.

Walk LL

Although the disease certainly changes the person, it doesn’t define the person.  Their character, experiences, faith and temperament still have significant contributions in determining who that person is.

Walk dear friend

In spite of their dementia, there is still a lot of living to do between the diagnosis and the end stages and that’s where you come in.  What will you do to help your friends or family diagnosed with any type of dementia enjoy activities that create meaning in their life and to find reasons to laugh, rejoice, and love?

Lady-Links answer that question by visiting our friends who have a diagnosis of any type of dementia.  We engage them in meaningful activities that they enjoy at each of our visits.  We want to help our dear friends feel significant and valued during this difficult time in their lives.




Are you a part of the solution?  There are many ways you can help from participating in one of the Walks with the purpose of  raising awareness to visiting a friend or loved one engaging them in activities that help them feel valued and loved.  Lady-Links does both.

Walk on path

If you want to participate in a Walk to End Alzheimer’s in your area, contact your local Alzheimer’s Association for details.  If you would like to learn how to duplicate our Lady-Links model of friendship visits, leave a comment and we will help you get organized.

Lady-Links…Linking Love, Laughter and Life

Dementia and Friends: The Right Perspective to Have

When things are difficult, some people tend to give up.  Lady-Links do not fall in that category.  We visit friends who have dementia because we believe that they are persons of worth and that their dementia doesn’t define who they are. We don’t give up just because our dear friends can’t do what they once did.

Card playing

Yogi Berri apparently wasn’t in the “giving up” category either.  His famous phrase, “It ain’t over til it’s over” inspired his New York Yankees 1973 baseball team to come from behind early in the season to winning the division title.  Although my sweet mother never allowed me to use “ain’t” in a sentence, I can appreciate the emphasis it gives to this positive perspective.   Lady-Links “ain’t” gonna give up believing that our dear friends deserve to be treated with value and respect, and that they can engage in activities that are meaningful to them.


At our visits, we focus on things that our dear friends can do, not what they can’t do.  That’s the perspective of Megan Carnarius, author of “A Deeper Perspective on Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias: Practical Tools and Spiritual Insights.”  She writes, “There is a lot of life to be lived between the diagnosis and the final stages.”

Inspecting a Cloisonne bowl, a decorative design of various colors separated by copper wire attached to a brass base.

Inspecting a Cloisonne bowl, a decorative design of various colors separated by copper wire attached to a brass base.

That has been our perspective since we first began our Lady-Links visits over three years ago.  We know that a progressive neurological disease is understandably difficult to bear and brings with it emotional, physical, and cognitive challenges.  But by focusing on what our dear friends enjoy, Lady-Links provide a positive, upbeat experience at each visit.


“There’s a lot of life to be lived” and “it ain’t over til it’s over” are translated into action at each Lady-Links visit as we bring love and laughter embedded into activities that our dear friends can do and enjoy.  And that’s the right perspective to have!


 Lady-Links….Linking Love, Laughter and Life

Dementia and What’s Important: How to Maintain Attachments

What is  important to those with dementia?  According to Bob DeMarco, caregiver for his mother diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and founder of the Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the answer is “to help keep them attached to their world and surroundings.”

Scrabble players 1

Lady-Links visits are structured to help our dear friends maintain important attachments in their lives.  That’s why each dear friend (that’s what we call our friends with dementia) is engaged in activities, carefully chosen because they are meaningful to her, rather than just following a list of general activities suggested for those with dementia.  For example, one dear friend loves to play Scrabble and has done so since childhood.  However, today she is unable to organize Scrabble parties like she once did so we do that for her.  She can assemble the words with great skill which delights us all, but she needs prompting with keeping the game going, knowing whose turn it is and how many tiles to draw from the bag.  We can do that unobtrusively, making for an enjoyable experience for her and us as well. For this dear friend, her love (her world) is Scrabble and we help her maintain that attachment.

Scrabble board

This “attachment to their world and surroundings” according to DeMarco is necessary for us to maintain for them because those with dementia “can’t sort things out for themselves.”  As a result, it’s up to family, friends and caregivers to reassure and guide them with things and activities familiar as well as meaningful to them.  Baking cookies is another example of how Lady-Links helped a dear friend enjoy an experience she once could do by herself and no longer can.

Making cookies to share

Making cookies to share

Lady-Links know how important the concept of being in the midst of their world and surroundings is to those with dementia, so we meet  in the apartments of our dear friends.  We brought all the ingredients for the cookies to our dear friend’s apartment so she could have a cooking experience in her own surroundings.

Hand Chimes 1

Another dear friend enjoys playing her piano which she has had since her early days of marriage.  We visit her weekly, accompanying her with singing and striking her set of hand chimes while she plays favorite songs from yellowed sheets of music she has carefully maintained for years and years. Music was “her world” and we are helping her keep it that way.

Having fun with chime barsAlthough still quite capable on the piano, she needs help in distributing the music and matching it to each hand chime.  She would be unable to collect and repackage all the equipment and supplies without us.  We manage this for her, without calling attention to our efforts.

Friends enjoying coffee.

Friends enjoying coffee.

When Lady-Links help those with dementia maintain their attachments by selecting activities that are familiar and meaningful to them and engaging them in those activities in their own apartment, we see our dear friends improve in their feelings of self-worth.  Bob DeMarko describes it as “bringing a sense of relief to everyone concerned.”  He goes on to conclude in his post at, “You’ll learn that persons living with dementia are wonderful in their own way.”  We couldn’t agree more!



Dementia and Friends: What Makes A Good Friend?

What makes a good friend?  It’s something to think about, especially since Lady-Links is a group that makes friendship visits to ladies with various types and in various stages of dementia. Birthday Music 1

The question then becomes…just because someone has cognitive decline, should the definition of a “good friend” change?


Consider this quote from either William Shakespeare or Elbert Hubbard or anonymous depending on which website you chose, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, allows you to grow.”


Regardless of who first said that it summarizes what Lady-Links personify at each and every visit with our dear friends.  We know and love them as they are, wherever they are, on the dementia timeline.  We appreciate the life they once lifed, but still, we recognize that they continue to have contributions they can make, blessings they can bring to others, and meaningful pruposes yet to be accomplished.

Scrabble players

As the quote says, we look for ways to help them continue to grow and we do that regardless of the progressive neurological disease they have. To us, the definition of a “good friend” remains the same even when a person is diagnosed with dementia.

Girl Talk looking at picture

What makes a good friend?  A person who links love, laughter and life together in meaningful ways regardless of circumstances.  And that describes a Lady-Link!

Laughing fun

Dementia and Friends: 3 Years of Lady-Links Visits

Lady-Links just celebrated three years of making friendship visits to our dear friends with dementia.

3 Year Anniversary Cake (2)

During that three year period Lady-Links have made a combined total of about 550 friendship visits to 8 sweet ladies in various stages of dementia.  At our visits, we engage our dear friends in activities that they can enjoy and in which they can engage.  We bring love and laughter into their lives as well as into ours.  The following video was shown during this anniversary party and gives an overview of what the past three years were like.  Enjoy!

Dementia and Friends: Celebrating Life through Friendship

At Lady-Links, we embrace the concept of valuing life regardless of one’s level of cognitive ability.  We demonstrate this belief by visiting dear friends who are in various stages of dementia, enriching their lives by engaging them in activities they can enjoy.

DSC_4801 - Version 2

It’s not as difficult as it sounds.  We simply think of what we enjoy doing and that provides the basis for our visits, making a few modifications to fit the needs and interests of our dear friends.  It’s the way we would want to be treated if we had dementia.

Friends enjoying coffee.

Friends enjoying coffee.


In a post by Rachael Wonderlin entitled, “16 Things I Would Want if I Get Dementia,” she wrote, “I still want to enjoy the things that I’ve always enjoyed.  Help me find a way to exercise, read, and visit with friends.”  As Lady-Links, we embrace Rachael Wonderlin’s focus: to continue to enjoy the things she has always enjoyed and to continue to visit with friends.

Chair exercises can be initiated quickly and easily.

Chair exercises can be initiated quickly and easily.

Lady-Links takes those two concepts very seriously, knowing that engaging in activities with friends is an important part of one’s well-being, including those with dementia.


We believe that dementia doesn’t define the person.  Their character, experiences, faith, and temperament still have significant contributions in determining who that person is.


Our dear friends with dementia continue to deserve to have activities that create meaning in their lives and to find reasons to laugh, rejoice and love.



All they need is a little help from their friends, and that’s where we fit in celebrating life at every Lady-Links visit.

Inspecting a Cloisonne bowl, a decorative design of various colors separated by copper wire attached to a brass base.

Inspecting a Cloisonne bowl, a decorative design of various colors separated by copper wire attached to a brass base.

We found Rachael Wonderlin’s insightful article on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room website along with many others that inform and inspire.

Dementia and Music Groups: Beneficial Experience for Everyone


Lady-Links is an organization that makes visits to ladies is our retirement community who have dementia, engaging them in activities they enjoy. One of our groups is dedicated to singing and playing hand chimes (resonator bells) while our dear friend plays the piano (yes, she can remember how to play and does so beautifully).  We practice each week and have performed several times at events in our community.  One word best describes our weekly practice sessions:  FUN!

Music group holding chimesThere was a recent pilot study by Dr. Mary Mittelton, NYU Langone Medical Center, on the effects of daily living of people with Alzheimer’s and their family members after sessions of singing together in preparation for a choral performance.  This is of interest to Lady-Links since we have something similar.  Our Ring and Sing gals are friends, not caregivers, but we do meet weekly and practice for our performances.  Our dear friend is a former music teacher and had the hand chimes and music from years ago.  We saw a way to link her past to the present in a weekly activity that she would enjoy as well as provide a way she could contribute her talents (and equipment) to something beneficial for the whole community.

Hand chimes

Dr. Mittelton’s pilot study described the experience as “sharing a stimulating and social activity” and that it would “improve the well-being and quality of life for all participants.”  At Lady-Links, we found that our practice sessions were not only stimulating (hitting the bell at the appropriate time while singing) but that they were quite social as well.  We have shared funny stories that words from the songs have brought to mind as well as travel adventures (Edelweiss…one of our ladies actually has a pressed Edelweiss flower and brought that to show us).

Music holding flower


The study found, as was expected, that the majority of people with dementia improved on self-rated “quality of life, self-esteem, and communication with family and friends.”  In addition, the majority of caregivers reported improvement in “health related quality of life and social support.”  The Ring and Sing Lady-Links Gals are quick to recognize how true the above mentioned study is regarding benefits for all the participants.

Music group leader at piano

Our dear friend has the opportunity to use her skills, abilities, and talents as she “directs” the group.  She tells us that it is her favorite time of the week.

Getting an Assignment

The Ring and Sing Lady-Links Gals love it because we have so much fun while achieving a common goal (successfully playing about 15 songs) and because we are involved in an activity which helps our dear friend feel significant and valued.

Music July 2


The Lady-Links agree with the study’s findings that this type of group choral experience is “pleasurable and validating for participants.”

Hand Chimes 1

Hand chimes 2

Hand chimes 3

Music smiles

You can read more about the study on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room website at








Dementia and Feeling Significant: Why doing for others helps

“I want to help!”  Children learn at an early age that it’s fun to help.


Often that helpfulness leads to a sense of accomplishment, especially when there are tangible results.

Little watermelon

Zucchini Texas Size

As we age, we still want to help…to feel a sense of accomplishment…to contribute to something that is worthwhile.

Making cookies to share

Making cookies to share

Our Lady-Links visits with our dear friends who have dementia focus on what these ladies can still do….NOT on what they can’t do.We work behind the scenes to create projects and activities which they can complete, allowing them to feel a sense of accomplishment.  With our crafts,  all the gluing is done before the visit, leaving only peel-and-stick decorations to be added.




That way at the visit, the parts can be assembled easily.   This leads to a feeling of accomplishment which contributes to a sense of significance..

4th door hanger on door

The craft projects we make are given to residents in our retirement community, so our dear friends know that they are contributing to the encouragement of others.


20160627_144510The key is to make it easy for your friend or loved one with dementia to be a part of the activity.


Working together is an easy way to provide guidance as a “team” member, not as a teacher to a student.

20160601_152639Make it possible for your friend or loved one with dementia to develop feelings of significance by allowing them to help with a project that will be given to others. That way they will benefit from being a part of a group effort and will feel that they have contributed something to a noble cause.

20150803_150524 We are frequently told by the caregivers and/or spouses of our dear friends that the days the Lady-Links visit are the best days of the week for their loved one.  And that makes us feel significant!









Dementia and Summer Fun: Keeping it Cool with 12 Activities to Try

Summer time…”and the livin’ is easy” so an old familiar song tells us. Summer brings memories of childhood friends and playing outside until dark. Special activities were saved for summer…swimming, camping, trips to the beach, baseball games, hot dogs, ice cream and picnics. For children, it’s usually their favorite season of the year. It was a time for good fun, good food, and good friends.


Your loved one with dementia or other cognitive decline can celebrate the summer season without having to spend time out in the hot sun with just a little planning on your part. Activities with a summer theme can bring the “outdoors” inside for a much cooler, safer experience than being out in the heat and humidity.

You will want to help them link to summertime memories from their childhood. For starters, think of activities you did as a child during the summer. Chances are your loved one engaged in similar activities too. The next step is to modify those outdoor activities to something that can be done indoors. (There are 10 suggestions listed at the end of this post in case you need a little help.)

To prompt memories, we made a Bingo game with a summer theme to be played at some of our summertime Lady-Links visits.  We used clip art for the spaces. Matching pictures rather than using numbers makes it easy and fun. Plus, for each picture of a summer activity that comes up to match during the game, we very briefly share our childhood memories and often our “dear friends” (as we call the sweet ladies with dementia that we visit) will add a few comments too.


We also designed a card using the same clip art to make with our dear friends at our Lady-Links visits to give to friends in our retirement community. Once again, these pictures helped prompt memories.

summer card

We used cardstock and printed some of the message with the computer before the visit.  The pictures can be added by your loved one with glue, glue dots or double sided tape (with assistance as needed).  We have a sticker machine, so ours are easy to apply.  Our dear friends will simply peel and stick.


We added a message about the Summer Solstice on the back of the card.


The Summer Bingo and Summer Card are great ways to help your loved one link  to memories.  Other activities that are fun to do indoors that have a summer theme are:

1.  An indoor picnic.  Use a checkered table cloth and a picnic basket for the full effect!

2.  Making ice cream cones.  Purchase several flavors of ice cream and the cones, and be sure to use an ice cream scoop for the desired look.

3.  Eating watermelon. The seedless kind will be easier for your loved one to manage.

4.  Making bottled sand sculptures.  (Kits can be ordered from craft stores).

5.  Flower arranging. Can be real flowers or silk ones.

6. Planting seeds in pots and setting on the windowsill.  For an additional activity, decorate the clay pots.

7.  Throw a beach ball.  (Be sure to have a nice open indoor space for this.)

8.  Have a summer hat party!  Collect summer hats and try each of them on.  Take pictures.

9.  Make ice cream sundaes.  Have hot fudge and other toppings available.

10. Make popsicles. (There are plenty of easy recipes available.)   Have some already frozen and ready to eat so you don’t have to wait for yours to freeze.

20140807_083023Engaging your loved one with summertime activities will work best when you help them link to meaningful memories from their past. Prompting them with pictures (such as the Summer Bingo game or the Summer card) or providing them with related activities (such as the 10 listed above) will help them in making those connections. Hopefully you will get plenty of smiles and perhaps some conversation like we do at our Lady-Links visits when we bring summer inside.







Dementia and Patriotic Holidays: 3 Ways to Celebrate America

Proud to be an American!  Young and old can celebrate the freedoms we have living in this great nation, and that includes our friends and loved ones with dementia.

Patriotic Picture

At our Lady-Links visits with our dear friends who have dementia, we’ve found three ways to celebrate the American spirit during holidays like Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July, Presidents Day and Veterans Day.

#1 Do activities with a patriotic theme. 

Memorial Day craft and flowers

All it takes is a supply of patriotic stickers, stars, flowers, flags, and cardstock.

Supplies stickers 2

We have found that the peel and stick decorations work best.  We made patriotic decorations to share with our neighbors in our retirement community.

Memorial Day craft making



4th door hanger on door

Connecting to memories from the past such as saying the Pledge of Allegience will provide enjoyable reminders of childhood routines that were a part of every school day.

#2  Play patriotic music.

Memorial Day flags on couch

Waving our flags to recorded songs such as “Anchors Aweigh” or “Off We Go into the Wild Blue Yonder” or singing familiar childhood songs such as  “Yankee Doodle” was a great way to express our feelings of patriotism.


One of our dear friends has a set of hand chimes that she used when she was a classroom music teacher many years ago.  Our Lady-Links have learned to play them while she accompanies us on the piano.  One of our patriotic favorites to play is “She’s a Grand Old Flag.”

#3  Use a red, white and blue theme for decorations and refreshments.



4th hat LL

At one patriotic holiday celebration Lady-Links visit, we frosted sugar cookies with red, white, and blue icing to share with our neighbors.  We ate about as many as we gave away!  Bakery cookies and cakes work just as well but there’s fun and benefit for the dear friend in helping to make them.



Engaging our dear friends in multiple celebrations about America throughout the year helps keep them connected to the values on which this country was established and helps them feel secure that they live in such a great nation.  Celebrating America using a patriotic theme in the  (1) activities, (2)  music, (3) decorations and refreshments also gives our dear friends a sense of belonging and helps them feel a part of history.