When I appeared on the Dr. Oz show, I got to meet Dr. Cynthia Greene. Both Dr. Oz and Dr. Green encouraged me by explaining that dementia is more from lifestyle than it is from heredity. Having two parents with dementia (multi-infarct and Alzheimer’s) along with two grandmothers with dementia made me feel like I was doomed to repeat history.
Dr. Green founded Total Brain Health that offers brain fitness toolkits for senior care, healthcare and fitness settings.She also is the author of Your Best Brain Everthat was named a “2013 Top Guide to Life After 50” by The Wall Street Journal.
Each year Total Brain Health creates a gift guide of items that foster brain health. The MemoryBanc Register is a life preparedness tool that is best done when you are in good health. It helps:
couples coordinate their financial and household details,
single adults provide a road map to those that would step in to help if they needed it and
parents record the location of key documents, accounts and assets along with their personal wishes.
As a gift, it not only is a simple solution to help someone get organized, but it also conveys to the individual that in the event they should ever need help, you’d be honored to help. Honored.
* I continue to recommend you work with an estate lawyer to determine which legal tools you need. In my opinion, the most important document everyone over the age of 18 should have in place is a Durable Power of Attorney.
One of my favorite cartoons is Scooby Doo. When I arrive to visit my Mom today, I feel another mystery lurking. A vase of flowers is in my Mom’s apartment. I don’t dare ask where they came from because she will be unable to give me an answer. This cycle has repeated itself dozens of times in the past few years. If only she could share a memory. Those days are long gone and I’m happy she remembers me. Most conversations are me sharing my day or recounting a memory from our past.
The mysteries I face usually center around something that is missing — like her PJs. We would buy new pairs and they would disappear from her apartment within days.
Today, a vase of flowers has appeared and I’m curious where it came from. I feel like Daphne from Scooby Doo (except for the rich and glamorous part). She was never one to solve the mystery but was able to help through some clumsy act. I’m hoping I will fall over a clue as I visit with my Mom. Today, I am unable to unearth anything.
It’s nice to know that someone shared an act of kindness on my Mom. Even if she doesn’t remember, the positive energy shared on her spills over to everyone that visits. Pleased.
Several of my students were widows with grown children, and during the class, they approached me to ask about services that could help them manage if they needed support. They didn’t want to burden their children, and the isolation felt behind that simple question hurt. I know my Mom felt the same way, yet I believe most children would prefer to have this discussion with their parent rather than struggle through the issues my family faced (visit the first post on this blog if you are unfamiliar with our challenges in caring for two parents with dementia). I can imagine the hurt I would have felt had my Mom hired someone and not discussed her choice with me or one of my siblings.
While we have just celebrated Mother’s Day, I hope those of you in great health with vibrate families will consider celebrating your mom with the ultimate gift — your time. When you need this information is always a bad time to start the discussion. Every day is a good opportunity to let your mom or dad know that you are there and would like to help SHOULD they ever need it.
Good times to raise your offer include:
When they ask you to be their executor or share their estate planning documents with you. Let them know you are honored to be asked and request that they schedule some time to sit with you to share the information you would need to fulfill this role.
When something has happened to a family friend. These are the best times to warmly ask how your parent might want you to help if your family was faced with a similar situation.
At family gatherings when you are all sitting around a table. You can ask open questions like “Have you noticed any changes or had to give up things you love since you have gotten older?” Once you find an opening to the discussion in a positive light, you should be able to build on that discussion.
If a parent has cognitive impairment, there may never be a good time. It could be that they don’t remember much of the information and are afraid to share it with you. In this case, you will have to work on finding mailings and checking files to collect the information. A cell phone with a camera can be an easy way to gather information without mom or dad feeling like you are sneaking around and taking their papers.
In general, you will need to be patient, take it slow and look for windows of opportunity to raise these issues.
My mother recently celebrated her 82nd birthday. My mom has had trouble remembering her age … however, I can sympathize. I told people I was 48 for almost a year before my husband corrected me and clarified that I was only 47 at the time.
I am starting to recognize that as we approach each holiday or birthday, I’m starting to wonder if this will be the “last time” we can celebrate this moment together. I am working to enjoy the moment and not let that doom and gloom notion drive me when planning. However, I do consider how to make the best of each visit and had fun with my mom’s 82nd birthday.
Since my mom is having trouble remembering her age — and in the hope of extending the birthday tidings beyond just the day of her birthday — my kids and I created 82 presents for my mom and numbered them.
On her birthday, we delivered a basket filled with 82 gifts. We had a few special presents she opened, and told her the rest of the boxes she could open at her leisure.
We visited Micheal’s, and purchased little wedding favor boxes and filled them with chocolates which is a gift she will never grow weary. I don’t expect my mom to remember our visit, or even where the presents came from, but for a little while, she can enjoy her birthday tidings. Celebrated.