Lady-Links: Helping our Friends with Dementia Continue to Have Meaningful Lives

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Our dear friends with dementia deserve to continue to have meaning in their lives, just as you and I do.  The only difference is that we as their friends and loved ones need to help provide opportunities for them that will foster feelings of achieving what matters to them in life.

After coordinating and/or making visits for over 4 years to a number of ladies who are diagnosed with one of the types of dementia (Alzheimer’s is the type most of the ladies we visit have), I have found that our dear friends with dementia want two things:

1.  They want to feel loved.

2.  They want to feel like they can still contribute something worthwhile to society.

To feel loved, they need to feel secure in their surroundings and appreciated for who they are.   They feel safe and secure in familiar surroundings doing things they can successfully accomplish.  Our dear friends can play Scrabble, card games and the piano, and they can bake cookies.   Now, they may not know whose turn it is or how to keep score or where their music is or how to measure ingredients, but we work behind the scenes to help get everything ready and give clues about how to proceed.  They can accomplish these things because the activities are something they did as a child or a young adult and their brains can still pull up those long time memories. We combine plenty of encouraging words, smiles, and hugs with the activities that we do, helping them feel loved and appreciated.

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To feel like they are contributing something to society, they need to be able to give something back.  At our visits we have made crafts to distribute to other residents in our community.  Our dear friends feel like they are a part of a team who gives something worthwhile to someone else.  As a result, they feel like they are still playing a valuable role in meeting the needs of others.  They feel like they are “givers” and not just “takers.”

They help make craft projects that encourage those in our community who are sick or need a cheerful reminder that someone cares about them.  Our friends with dementia understand that “helping others” gives them a sense of purpose which leads to a meaningful life.

Easter Egg Baskets that were given away.

Easter Egg Baskets that were given away.

 

Valentines that were given away.

Valentines that were given away.

Bags of cookies ready to be given away.

Bags of cookies ready to be given away.

Making crafts to give away:

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Our dear friends are just that….dear, precious ladies with whom we have formed bonds of friendship.  Our lives are rich with meaning just by being with them. It is a blessing that is shared among the dear friend we are visiting and with each Lady-Link who is making the visit.  A great way to add meaning to all our lives.

Lady Links: Fall Fun

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Our dear friends with dementia aren’t left out of enjoying the fun activities associated with Fall.  During our Lady-Links visits, we enjoy working together to make crafts with a fall theme and engaging our dear friends in conversations about memories associated with this season.

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We make sure that our dear friends can actively participate in the craft making.  Often that means some preparation before the visit.  We can complete the sections that require detailed work, allowing our dear friends to add the bigger parts which are easier to handle.  We also use craft pieces with self-stick adhesive rather than glue.  It is much easier to “peel and stick” than to handle a bottle of glue.  Our dear friends feel successful and enjoy being on a team to produce such delightful seasonal projects.

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Fall sunflowers group

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20161025_144848We give away our fall crafts to residents in our retirement community, bringing joy to the giver and the receiver alike!  If you have a loved one or friend with dementia, why don’t you look for some of the fall themed craft kits at a local hobby store or shop online?  They are fun to do and will bring such pleasure to everyone involved!

 

Lady-Links: A Walk with Hope

How would you describe hope?  As Lady-Links, we believe hope means that something good that hasn’t happened yet will happen one day.  We know that a cure for Alzheimer’s and other related types of dementia will be discovered. We hope that it is soon.  That’s why each year we participate in an event to raise money for the necessary research that will lead to such a cure.  And we do so with hope and joy!

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We rejoice that we have the opportunity to visit and engage our dear friends with dementia in activities that they find meaningful, and it brings us joy to be a part of an event that brings awareness to finding a cure. Hope and Joy!  The two go together as evidenced by the pictures below taken at our 2017 Highland Springs Walk for Alzheimer’s.

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It was a wonderful event, filled with hope and joy, love and laughter, and the assurance that we are making a difference!

Lady-Links: Bringing Comfort and Security to those with Dementia

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As Lady-Links visit their dear friends with dementia, we make an effort to create an atmosphere of comfort and security while we’re there.  We are trained to focus on positives and redirect any conversation that might lead to a fearful or anxious topic.

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One of the best ways to encourage our dear friends is through sharing childhood memories.  Most of us are of the same generation so we can relate to hobbies, activities, music and games we enjoyed as children.  Those conversations are like a picture being painted before our eyes.  We can “see” our childhood home, our childhood friends, and even our childhood toys as we describe ways we had fun. Often we recreate some of those memories, like playing cards or games or even baking cookies.

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It is comforting to return to our childhood memories and brings with it a sense of security, especially for our dear friends who often are anxious because they are easily confused by what’s going on around them.

Some of our favorite conversations include how we celebrated birthdays.  In “our” day, having a birthday party was a big deal so it is a natural that we celebrate birthdays with our friends in ways they remember as a child.  When we do this, the rewards are beyond anything we can imagine.  Smiles turn into laughter as we celebrate together, even blowing out the candles as we used to do as children.  We all benefit from this type of activity.

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Providing comfort and security through recreating childhood activities is a great way to help a friend or loved one with dementia.  Lady-Links are focused on helping our dear friends any way we can.

Lady-Links: Walking for Our Dear Friends

Lady-Links have participated as a group every year since our organization in a walk to support the Alzheimer’s cause to find a cure, expand research and to provide hope for those with this disease. This year we will walk on October 4th with others from our retirement community in an effort to bring more awareness to the widespread devastating effects that Alzheimer’s creates.

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We make visits to ladies in our community who are diagnosed with dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the type of dementia the majority of our dear friends have.  We have seen firsthand how Alzheimer’s affects their families, their friends and our entire community.  Lady-Links are committed to bringing love and laughter into the lives of our dear friends through engaging them in meaningful activities that they enjoy.  We can’t do the medical research…we’re not trained medical professionals…but we’re friends doing what we do best…spotlighting the need to find a cure and providing hope for families that someone cares about their loved ones.

Enjoy some pictures from our past Walks and be inspired to join a Walk yourself!

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Walk 2014 Reception group

 

Walk 2014 donation

Walk LL

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Lady-Links: A Family Affair

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With Lady-Links visits to our dear friends with dementia, we become true friends, not just acquaintances.  We learn about shared experiences, memories and even family…especially grandchildren.  We are in close contact with our dear friends’ spouses and/or children and have their permission to exchange information about special events and people in their lives and our lives as long as it is positive and uplifting.  As a result, many of our families are friends with our dear friends as well.

A special case in point is with one of our dear friends who plays the piano each week for us while we sing and play her set of hand chimes. She calls us her “Ring and Sing Girls” and we have such a fun time with her as together we “make music.”  She is a former classroom music teacher and also gave private piano lessons for many years.

One of the Lady-Links has three grandsons who play the piano and our dear friend was eager to hear them.  There was no hesitation when we asked her if we could visit her to let the boys use her piano to give her a mini-concert.  She was delighted and was “in her element.”  She sat by the youngest (who has only been playing for about a month) and helped him with some warm up exercises.  When he played his memorized short, simple solo piece, she applauded and made him feel like he was an accomplished pianist.  She did that for the older boys as well.

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What a delightful experience for both our dear friend and us as we watched her “relive” in her memory her piano teaching days and be able to encourage young future musicians once again!

Dementia and Lady-Links: Making Circles of Love

 

 

Do you remember learning to count and to identify letters?  What about shapes?

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For those of us who remember our grade school arithmetic classes, we think of a circle as a geometric shape.  Yet, a circle implies so much more when we interpret it with the wisdom that age brings.

In a circle there is no beginning and no end.  It goes on forever.  That’s what friendships do.  They represent a relationship in which everyone benefits, much like our Lady-Links visits to our dear friends.  We’ve said this before, but we Lady-Links enjoy the visits as much as our dear friends with dementia do.  We spend time together as girlfriends, not as a teacher and student nor as a caregiver and patient.  We are friends, simply enjoying sharing stories, activities, and thoughts as we spend time together.

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An inspiring internet post,  referenced below, explains that “a circle brings people together in a social and bonding setting.”  The post continues, “when we sit in a circle, there is no hierarchy, no head of the table.”

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At our Lady-Links visits, we include our dear friends as peers while we sit in a circle having fun being together.  Of course we do some preparation for the visit.  Of course we plan activities that they can accomplish.  Of course we have studied and learned about the progression of dementia and how best to handle communication.  But when we arrive at the visit, what is seen by our dear friends is a circle of love filled with friends who care, which represents exactly how we feel.  Yes, we are prepared, but we do so with love and respect for our dear friends.

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We make our circle about relationships, not geometry, that creates and strengthens the bonds between us!

    • http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2017/07/dementia-care-the-inspiration-of-circle.ht

Dementia and Storms: Learning How to Dance in the Rain

Highland SpringsSummer rains…good for the area lakes, but not so good for outdoor activities that require a sunny day. Fun activities such as picnics, ball games and walks in the park have to be postponed or even cancelled.  Are you flexible enough to handle those disappointments which call for a change of plans?

But what if we’re not talking about the weather…what if we’re talking about the “storms” of life?  That’s much more difficult to handle…but not impossible.  So much of it depends on our attitude. If your loved one or friend with dementia feels like she or he is “drowning” in a storm that has appeared and won’t go away, perhaps you can help “weather that storm” with cheerfulness, encouragement, and love.

elderly person aloneHere’s a saying that has helped me as I’ve faced difficult situations in my life, “Instead of waiting for the storm to pass, learn how to dance in the rain.”  The internet (always truthful, right?) gives Vivian Greene credit for that quote.  Are you learning how to dance? From my observation, I will tell you who is….the spouses and children of the dear friends we visit. They have learned how to “dance” to the music that dementia has chosen for them, and they are to be commended for doing so.

It’s not always easy to ask for help, but they have reached out to us as Lady-Links to help their loved one continue to have friends and to engage in meaningful activities.  Thank you to the supportive families for all you do for your loved one and for allowing Lady-Links to be a part of their lives and yours.

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Christmas Party 3

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DSC_4807 - Version 2We applaud your efforts for learning how to dance even when it wasn’t your choice.

 

Dementia and Lady-Links: A Benefit for Everyone Involved

The word is spreading about the wonderful work that the Lady-Links do at their visits with our dear friends who have dementia.

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The benefits of socialization for people diagnosed with dementia are well known.  Social interactions can benefit memory and cognitive function.  Mentally stimulating the brain through social engagement is a healthy choice, resulting in a positive attitude that can last long after the activity has ended.  Plus socialization can help prevent feelings of isolation and depression.

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One of the biggest surprises about our visits has been that the Lady-Links enjoy the visits as much as our dear friends do!

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Lady-Links was started as a way to benefit those ladies in our community who have dementia, but quickly it was recognized that our “girl time” is enjoyed by all!

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The families of our dear friends are invited to our parties and events, and they sometimes join us at a visit.  This provides them with an opportunity to see their loved one respond positively in a social situation.  In addition, they have a great time as well!

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Socialization enhances lives whether it is of our dear friends, their families or even the Lady-Links!

Dementia and Attention Span: How to Assess

What is the length of your attention span? Does it depend on how you feel?  Does it depend on what time of day it is?  Does it depend on what’s going on around you?  All of the above?  None of the above?

Sharing with the woman who runs our local Market.

At our Lady-Links training, we discuss the best way to communicate with our dear friends who have dementia, including how to watch for signs that they are losing interest in what we’re doing.  We assess body language and facial expressions throughout our visits.


When we see that our dear friend is not engaging, we make changes.  We can change the topic of conversation, the activity, and the seating arrangement.  We are flexible enough to know that just because we start doing something one way, it doesn’t have to finish that way.  In fact, it doesn’t have to finish at all.  We look at the process, not the end product.  We realize that our dear friends need one-step instructions and we model the desired behavior without reducing the relationship to that of teacher to a student.

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We are friends visiting friends, and we build bridges based on our common interests and what our dear friends enjoyed before they got their diagnosis. One of our main considerations is that our dear friend feels involved, purposeful and useful, and that she is enjoying the activity.

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Sometimes just a slight modification to the activity is all that is needed.  At other times, we get up, move away from the previous activity and begin a new one. At other times, there are too many distractions within eyesight,  so we simplify what we’re doing and remove any unnecessary items.

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It’s all about helping our dear friends feel appreciated and valued as a friend, and understanding how to make changes based on attention span is a valuable tool in helping create a successful visit.

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