Dementia and Friends: Adding A Smile to Your Wardrobe

Who can forget the inspiration we get from certain movies that resonate with our hearts?  “Annie” was one for me.  So many great messages there…focusing on the positive…having hope….spreading kindness…and the importance of a smile.  To be fully dressed,  according to Annie,  we must have a smile!

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Lady-Links try to convey all those messages each time we visit our dear friends with dementia, and one thing for certain is that we know that a smile is a vital part of what we wear each day!  We see how our dear friends respond to our smiles.

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It’s easy to smile because we enjoy our dear friends so much.  We look forward to our visits which we find fun and delightful.

20150803_150524There are many studies that show that when you smile at someone, they will smile back.  That is true with our friends with dementia.  They will respond to our smiles and laughter, even though they don’t always fully understand exactly what is happening.  But they “catch” our mood and it uplifts theirs as well.

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Our Lady-Links smile so much because we enjoy becoming involved in meaningful activities with our dear friends, whether it is playing a game, sharing a show and tell object, participating in a musical activity or making a craft.

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Our Lady-Links “dress” in smiles naturally!  That simple act generates a “domino effect” of smiles traveling from one person to another, helping to create an atmosphere of happiness regardless of circumstances.

Lady-Links Enjoying the Fun

Lady-Links Enjoying the Fun

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Families and caregivers of our dear friends tell us that after we leave, that the person with dementia remains in a good mood for a while even though she might not remember what we did or even that we visited.

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The Lady-Links dress for success…and we know that includes a smile because as Annie says, “You’re never fully dressed without one!”

20160414_141742What’s in your wardrobe?  A smile is the right accessory for any outfit you choose, so be sure to wear one each day. Your world awaits it!

“When you’re smiling, when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.”

Louis Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dementia and Lady-Links: Trending Thankfulness

Social media enthusiasts respond to this question every day, “What’s trending?”  They follow these trends on their phones and other electronic devices just to keep up with what’s going on.  To make categorizing the answers easier, key words of “what’s trending” are identified with a # symbol called a hashtag.

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The range of possibilities is unlimited, but I like to think that at Lady-Links there would be no doubt that our hashtag would be # Thankfulness.  We are thankful that the families of our dear friends with dementia allow us to make visits, and we are thankful to be a support and encouragement to them as they care for their loved one.

Being thankful is easy in some circumstances but not so easy in others.  When a family faces dementia in the life of a loved one, it’s often hard to know how to give thanks. Yet, many families do.

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If you read articles and blogs posted on the internet from families in that exact situation, you will read of hope and joy in the midst of such a difficult disease. Hope that the love and care they are providing is making a difference, and joy when they realize that it does. Much of their thankfulness is for friends who continue to visit their loved one with dementia.

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That’s where Lady-Links come in…we bring love and laughter into the lives of our dear friends with dementia as we help them engage in activities that are cognitively and emotionally stimulating.  We support the families and join in with them to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions.

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Our visits are person-center and we find ways to make our dear friends feel valued and appreciated.

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Families of our dear friends are thankful for what we do, and we are thankful for the opportunities to become involved with their loved ones.  Thankfulness is an attitude that the Lady-Links choose to bring to each visit because it is a blessing to be an answer to a family’s prayer and a joy to help those we care about.  It lets us be a part of the “goodness” that we look for in the world around us when things don’t always look so good, especially for those families affected by dementia.

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So, what’s trending with the Lady-Links?  #thankfulness

What’s trending with you?

 

Dementia and Friends: November Nostalgia

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Chances are, November brings images of Thanksgiving dinners, friends and family, leaves displaying a spectrum of color, blazing bonfires, exciting football games, and many other pleasant thoughts.

Thanksgiving skit (2)Our visits this month to our dear friends with dementia have been sprinkled with “November Nostalgia” conversation starters.  It’s been delightful to recall the past with such charming recollections brought to mind.

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We focus on the positive aspects of memories and avoid any topics that would cause concern since our dear friends don’t have the cognitive abilities to filter negative information appropriately.

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Each month has specific memories that can be associated with it. We find activities that will help link to those special thoughts.

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With careful planning, Lady-Links visits are designed to bring out the best that each month has to offer and to combine it with activities that stimulate cognition and socialization.  November Nostalgia has been a spectacular success!

Dementia and Friends: 7 Things to Remember to Count

When did you learn to count?  Probably early in your childhood memories there’s an experience with numbers. Children like numbers because there’s an order, sequence, and pattern that’s easy to follow. Adults like numbers, too.  We can count on 2 + 2 always equaling 4.  We know that 8 always comes after 7.

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We find that numbers are useful and serve many purposes.

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Numbers help provide structure to the unstructured things around us.  When things make sense, we feel a sense of accomplishment…even joy.

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So if numbers are useful,  make sense and can lead to a feeling of accomplishment, even joy, why aren’t those of us  who are involved with friends and loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia spending more time counting?  Could it be that we’re looking at this from an upside down viewpoint?

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Why not refocus and remember to count the good things that surround us in this Alzheimer’s World? There’s so much that is difficult and disappointing and discouraging about dementia.  There’s no denying that, but if we’re not careful that focus will become consuming.  Then we’re emotionally empty and no help to anyone, including ourselves.  We have a choice in what we count….and we Lady-Links choose to count the joys we see at every visit with our dear friends. How about joining us?

7 Things to Remember to Count

1.  Friends who Care

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.

2.  Unexpected Smiles

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3.  Celebrations Recognized

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4.  Contributions Made

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5.  Purposes Accomplished

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6.  Interests Explored

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7.  Joys Shared

Flag day cookies eatingCounting is a natural process for each of us as we go through the day.  But what we count is a matter of choice. During our three years of Lady-Links visits to dear friends with dementia, we’ve seen plenty of things  to count, but we’ve made a choice to count ways our love and laughter add to the equation and to know that the process isn’t over yet.  What will you choose to remember to count?

 

Dementia and Friends: The Conversation of Art and the Art of Conversation

We enjoy engaging in art projects with our dear friends with dementia at our Lady-Links visits. We find that topics for conversation are easily inspired by the colors, shapes and design of what we’re creating.  

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Our seasonal arts and crafts projects are great for starting conversations associated with that time of the year.  We call this the “Conversation of Art” as we look for ways to integrate topics into our conversation which relate to our art project.

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As we made these fall-themed crafts, conversation naturally included memories centered around pumpkin decorating, playing in piles of leaves, collecting acorns, seeing scarecrows in garden areas, and enjoying fall festivals.  There are plenty of ideas for stimulating memories just from what the art project represents.  The Conversation of Art is simply relating your topic of conversation to what the art suggests.

20161025_161733We suggest four topics for the Conversation of Art:

1.  Talk about activities associated with the theme.

2.  Talk about weather associated with the theme.

3.  Talk about food associated with the theme.

4.  Talk about clothing associated with the theme.

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In our experience of making over 500 visits to ladies with dementia, we find that there is an art to creating conversation that helps engage our dear friends in the best way possible. Just knowing what topics (activities, weather, food and clothing)  to relate to the theme is only part of the equation.  Here are four tips for the Art of Conversation, which is how to best communicate with your friend or loved one with any type of cognitive decline.

1.  Focus on childhood memories.  Remember that the concept, “first in, last out” refers to the memories stored in the brain of a person with dementia.  Their earliest memories will probably be the last to go.  This means that you should talk about your childhood experiences. That will stimulate similar memories in your dear friend and hopefully he or she will share something they remember because they have been prompted by what you said.

2.  Focus on  positive things. Share a special memory which encouraged or delighted you at the time.  Your friend or loved one doesn’t have the filters that you do, so don’t bring up any negative aspects that sometimes accompany specific seasons or holidays.

3. Focus on simplicity.  Share one short memory with the purpose of finding something with which they will connect.  Multiple memories with lots of details will only confuse or overwhelm a person with dementia.

4.  Focus on engaging the other person.  That is the purpose of the conversation.  It’s not really about us.  It is about helping them make connections and relate to what we are saying.  Use open-ended questions when appropriate, giving time for them to process the information and respond. Add plenty of smiles too!

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 The “Conversation of Art” when combined with the “Art of Conversation” will provide meaningful communication for you and your friend or loved one with dementia during any season of the year!

Seasons change but friendships stay,

enriching each and every day.

Dementia and Friends: Helping Me to Still Be Me

How would you explain dementia?

20161021_154008We’ve used the umbrella example previously in which “dementia” is said to be an umbrella-type term for symptoms (such as the loss of memory, judgment, language, complex motor skills) with the specific types of dementia falling underneath the umbrella (such as Alzheimer’s, vascular, dementia with Lewy bodies, Parkinson’s disease dementia, frontotemporal dementia and many more).

This time, we wanted a new approach to help the Lady-Links in their understanding of how to maximize their visits with our dear friends who have dementia, so we used the varieties of Oreo cookies as an example of something that is different but somewhat the same.

20161021_152657The Oreo cookies are similar in their shape and design, but very different in their makeup.  Somewhat like dementia don’t you think?  Confusion, cognitive decline, memory loss are some of the similarities of dementia but the way the disease begins and progresses can be quite different.

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We’ve learned that things don’t always stack up evenly when looking at the types of dementia, so we are flexible in what we plan for each visit to help each dear friend feel valued, loved,and appreciated.  As a result, understanding the type of dementia each of our dear friends has and her  stage of progression in that type of dementia should influence our choice of activities.  And it does.  With some dear friends we engage them in crafts.  With others it’s music or games or show and tell.  We know that one-size doesn’t fit all, and that each dear friend’s visit needs to be designed for her specific interests and abilities.

Understanding the types of dementia helps us to understand our dear friends better.  If our dear friends could tell us how they feel, we know that they would want us to help them continue to be themselves, not letting the dementia dictate who they are.  The following poem expresses how we think our dear friends with dementia feel….

DEMENTIA:  DIFFERENT BUT SOMEWHAT THE SAME

By Dennie Lindsey

(a poem representing thoughts of our dear friends with dementia)

We look different

yet we’re somewhat the same.

And we’re so thankful that you know us more

 than just by name.

You understand our many faces,

our moods and what we fear.

Yet you treat us with respect

and even call us dear.

You’re quick to acknowledge

that one size doesn’t fit all.

And you make such an effort

to be at our beck and call.

Some of us are sleepy

others are wide awake

Yet you’re able to meet each need

at every visit you make.

You know that we’re different

but we’re the same in this one way.

We want to feel that we’re valued

and you affirm that by what you do and say.

So, thank you Lady-Links

for taking the time to see

that dementia comes in various forms.

Yet you’re helping me to still be me.

Different, yes,,,, but similar because according to Psalm 139, each one of us, including our dear friends,  is fearfully and wonderfully made.  Let’s continue to treat one another with value and dignity regardless of cognitive ability and to find ways to help each of  our dear friends be able to say, “I’m still me.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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!

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 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.”

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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.

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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.

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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 www.alzheimersreadingroom.com, “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?

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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!

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