Friday, February 15, 2013

Beautiful Book Series for Memory-Impaired: A Review

I was recently asked if I would review a book designed toward increasing interaction between caregivers and/or family members and individuals with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke, brain injury, or other memory-impairment conditions. The publisher is Shadowbox Press LLC, a small, independent publisher out of Richfield, Ohio.

I was happy to say 'yes' to the request since Sis and I (like caregivers/family members all around the globe) are constantly looking for ways to engage and interact with Dad. The book I received to review was America, one of eight interactive, large-print Alzheimer's and dementia activity books in the Shadowbox Press line. It, like the others in the series, is comprised of three unique sections, described by the publisher as follows:

The Story

  • Designed to entertain, inform, inspire, and/or educate
  • Developed to evoke memories and encourage opportunities to reminisce
  • Fosters an interest in reading
  • Engaging photos and large-print text written in easy-to-comprehend sentences

 Conversation Starters

  • Features a combination of close-ended (yes or no) and open-ended questions
  • Questions directly correlate to individual sets of pages from the STORY
  • Designed to prompt a dialog from past experiences, events and/or relationships
  • Provides an opportunity to share special memories and unique experiences


  • Designed to provide additional mental and physical enrichment
  • Based on sensory stimulation, creative expression, and physical movement
  • Corresponds to the overall theme of each book
  • Essential to overall good health and emotional well-being

Titles in the line are designed to be of interest to either gender and currently include the above-mentioned America, along with Bible Verses, Colors, Dogs and Puppies, Flowers, Fun and Games, Seasons, and Wild Animals. Each is filled with beautiful, high-quality photos of items that fit the theme, like this photo of the Statue of Liberty from America:

Shadowbox Press received a  2012 National Mature Media award in the Book (Publications/Editorial) category based on these books.. The awards program recognizes companies that are producing the nation's best advertising, marketing and educational materials for older adults, the nation's fastest-growing population.

My Review

I am pleased to be able to highly recommend these books. They are beautifully bound, high-quality tomes that look as though they will stand up to rigorous use. The pictures alone are enough to engage those who are viewing the volumes, but the added story-lines and conversation starters take the burden off of overworked caretakers/family members by providing text and questions to keep the conversation going. The topics are common themes that will be familiar to everyone, increasing the probability of eliciting a response.

I shared America with the folks at Dad's Memory Care Unit and received very favorable comments from both staff and residents.

More information on the series can be found at the publisher's web site: The books can be purchased directly from the web site, and retail for $19.95 each.

** Photo credits: Shadowbox Press

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Pneumonia, naps, and pizza

Between med changes and pneumonia, Dad
just can't keep his eyes open these days.
When it comes to the elderly, pneumonia is a scary thing for it can wreak havoc on already weakened and compromised immune systems. Sis got a call on Sunday that Dad was sick and running a high temperature. When we saw the Doctor today, she said it more than likely is pneumonia.

He's been on a strong course of antibiotics since Sunday and seems to be responding well. He's coughing, but it doesn't seem too bad. We are keeping our fingers crossed that he has gotten off easy, though he is very tired and weakened. He slept through most of our visit again, so we put him in his bed for a proper nap when we left.

Unfortunately, the antibiotics have him off of his food because nothing tastes good. Today, he turned down cheesecake, cupcakes, and regular cake which, if you know my father, is unheard of. The man does love his sweets.

Friday is our once-a-month pizza party for the Memory Care residents. I'm hoping his taste buds will be back to normal by then. 'Cause, you know, the guy loves his pizza, too. :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Life Beyond

A beautiful 4-minute film about a mother with Alzheimer's and her daughter. One thing this disease does is force us to relate in new ways. Sometimes, this isn't a bad thing. Do yourself a favor and watch this.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

As time goes by

Dad, with Tracey, his Hospice Nurse

My father is now in Severe or Late-Stage Alzheimer's disease -- the last and final stage before the "end stage"  -- according to his doctor and the hospice nurse in charge of his hospice care.

On the one hand, Sis and I knew this. It would be hard *not* to know when we see the decline on a weekly basis. Dad can no longer feed himself: not only can he not remember what utensils are for, he often has trouble coordinating his hand to get the food/drink to his mouth. His appetite, always so healthy, has seen a marked decline. He can't walk unassisted, and even then he is in danger of falling. He falls...a lot.

On the other hand, it's hard to hear it confirmed because last stage is, well, last stage.

Dad could last months or years in this final phase. No one can say for certain. His decline seems fairly rapid these last few months, though, which creates an awful sense of foreboding. Every time we go to visit with him, we wonder,"How much worse will he be today?" Every time the phone rings we wonder,"Has he fallen again? Or is it something much worse?" (I was the one who got the phone call when my Mom passed away. My heart skips a beat or three every time I see by caller ID that Dad's residence is calling.)

The toll this takes on family is incredible. It's a day-to-day struggle not to be overwhelmed by grief, not to be swallowed up whole by the sense of helplessness you feel. It's a struggle to be upbeat and happy when visiting your loved one. When I leave Dad after a visit, I can tell you that the desire to sleep for hours afterwards is always present because it's such a draining experience.

Still, you go on. We feed Dad his lunch when we visit. We try to converse, but mostly these days he wants to sleep. (We spend a lot of time watching him sleep, especially now while they are still adjusting his meds for the behavior problems I mentioned in an earlier post.) We hold his hand, kiss his forehead. Tell him we are near.

Minute by minute, hour by hour, you do the best you can.

And you hope and pray that it's enough.