Weddings in Dementialand

Your cousin is getting married. Grandma loves weddings. In fact, she used to do all her friends’ hair when they would get married. She’s always adored family gatherings—the bigger, the better. You plan to go to the nursing home, help her get dressed, assist her with makeup and hair, drive her three hours to the […]

Positive Things in Dementialand

There’s something refreshing about visiting a group of people at an assisted living, nursing home, memory care community, or adult day center—where divisions of social class tend to disappear, no one cares who much money you make, and a retired janitor is just as respected as a retired cardiologist. And all that stuff I watch on the news that makes me fear for the future of our country? I leave it at the door when I visit my friends with dementia. (It’s better than hot yoga—where my mind wanders to a Facebook argument about politics that I am tempted to enter as I contort awkwardly into pigeon pose.)

Nursing Homes and Guilt Traps in Dementialand

And then there are people who promise their loved ones that they will never place them in a nursing home. I once had a woman say to me, “My husband and I promised we’d never do that to each other.”

I can promise my spouse a lot of things. I can promise I’ll never cheat on him. I can promise I’ll never blow all our money at the casino. I can promise to always take the kitchen trash out when it’s overflowing. (Bill, I promise you the first two–I make no commitment to the third. The third was just an example.) You see, those are things I can control.

Impulse Control (Or Lack Thereof) in Dementialand

When I do presentations and explain how dementia can impact impulse control, I ask groups, “How many of you have ever felt like hitting someone, kicking someone, or verbally berating someone…but didn’t?” It’s funny. I’ve asked this question to quite a few groups: nursing home administrators, nurses, nursing assistants, social workers, family caregivers, nuns, cops, […]

It’s About More Than Memory in Dementialand

Imagine her surprise when, at the age of 70, he started saying “I love you” more often. Not only did he say it frequently, he said it publicly—in the grocery store and in line at the post office. She liked it, of course, but it made her uneasy. And sometimes the timing seemed downright inappropriate—like when they were sitting at the bank listening to a loan officer explain interest rates and he interrupted the guy to say “I love you” to his wife. He also started telling their kids that he loved them and that he was proud of them. The kids never doubted his sincerity, but they asked their mom why their dad was acting so weird.  When she told her friends she was concerned, they told her she was crazy.