Saturday, September 28, 2013

Alzheimer's: It's never boring

One thing about Alzheimer's: it is never boring.

Dad's at a place where his behavior can be very unpredictable. When I visited Friday, the aides told me that he'd been very agitated the Tuesday before, angry because people weren't "doing their jobs," talking about court martials (yes, I know it should be courts martial, but seriously...who says that???), and generally being very bossy. On Friday, however, he was as docile as a lamb.

In the first video below, we chatted about little things. You can see how his speech is convoluted: sometimes he speaks with ease, sometimes he can't come up with the right words, and sometimes it all comes out as gibberish. We have long periods of silence these days, where once he would have talked my ears off.

He also fixates on a topic. It can be anything under the sun. Once it was tires. Three hours worth! Friday it was his teeth.

In the second video, one of the aides had just asked him if he wanted to go to the bathroom. He said no. She is trying to redirect him to get him to go with her and had just said, "Come on, Harold. I want you to run somewhere with me."  (Catch his use of the word "jurisdiction"! Where did that come from??)

"If I fall and faint, drag me in."

Like I said, Alzheimer's is never boring.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Weary Angel Bracelet giveaway!

As I've said before, caregivers are earthly angels, and too often they walk a solitary path. My painting, "Weary Angel", is dedicated to caregivers. She's tired and worn, yet she looks to the heavens: it's all about hope, and love.

Wednesday, September 25th is my birthday and I'm celebrating by offering two of these Weary Angel bracelets as prizes in a giveaway. They are made by Cafe Press for Briarwood Studio and feature the Weary Angel. If you are a caregiver, or you have a special one in your life, please enter the giveaway as a chance to win this reminder that you/they are *never* alone.

There were two reasons I started this blog: one, to chronicle my Dad's journey for family and friends that wanted to keep up with how he was doing, and two, to help raise awareness about Alzheimer's. Someday it will be as visible (and fought against) as cancer, but that day has not yet arrived.

The Daily Goodbye's companion page on Facebook has almost 1,400 followers! Sadly, though, this blog does not. *grin* If we can get the blog's number of followers up, it will be easier for people to find us through the search engines. And that's a good thing for awareness. So let's get those numbers up, shall we?

 Here's how to enter:

1. If you're not already following, please follow this blog, The Daily Goodbyes.

2. If you can't follow the blog for some reason, put a link to it on your Facebook page and ask people to visit/follow. Use this link:

3. If you do *both* of the above, you'll get two chances at winning!

After you do one or both of the above, you must comment either here or on the The Daily Goodbyes Facebook page to let me know that you've done it. If you don't comment, your name won't be entered in the drawing.

The contest will close Saturday evening at midnight ET (9 p.m. Pacific). The winners will be announced Sunday evening.

I appreciate your help. I look forward to finding out who our two winners will be!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Birthday Wishes

"Hello, Mom!" Lynn called as she approached her Mother's table in the dining room. Her Mom looked up, her eyes squinting at the light. She'd been napping in her chair.

"Who are you?" she asked, looking at Lynn.

"It's me, Mom. It's Lynn. I came to wish you a happy birthday. So...happy birthday!"

"Don't shout at me," the old woman said.

"I wasn't...," Lynn began.

"And you're not my daughter. You're too old to be my daughter. Go away."

The old woman closed her eyes and dozed off again.

Lynn's eyes filled with tears, but she quickly brushed them away. It was hard not to be hurt when Mom didn't recognize her, but she was slowly learning to deal with it. She set the cake she was carrying on the table and made herself comfortable in one of the chairs, waiting. Other residents walked by and Lynn smiled and waved at them. Some acknowledged her; some didn't. Two residents at a corner table were arguing over who should be allowed to sit at their table with them. One was calling out for something to drink.

"Who are you?" The old woman was awake again.

"My name is Lynn."

"Why are you here?"

"I'm a friend of your daughter's," Lynn said. "I just came by to say hi."

"That's nice," said the old woman, looking intently at the cake on the table.

"What's that?" she asked.

"It's a birthday cake. I heard it was your birthday so I thought you might like some cake."

"Is it my birthday? No, it's not my birthday. If it were my birthday, my daughter would be here."

Lynn put her hand over the woman's, squeezing gently. "I bet she'd be here if she could."

The old woman reached out a finger to touch the plastic cake container.

"What kind is it?" she asked.

"Lynn told me you love chocolate cake, so that's what I brought."

The old woman's eyes grew round. "Oh, I do. I do love chocolate cake." She looked around as if to see if anybody were watching. "Maybe we could have a piece now?"

Lynn smiled. "I think that sounds like a wonderful idea," she said. They cut the cake, putting slices on paper plates that Lynn had brought with her. She gave her Mom a large piece, then shared with the other residents in the room.

"Ooooh, this is gooood," the old woman said, her eyes shining with excitement. "Best cake I've had in years."

She quickly ate the first piece of cake and asked for a second. She smiled as she ate.

"Soooo good," she said. "I bet my daughter's sorry she's missing this."

"I'm sure she is," Lynn said, swallowing the lump in her throat.

After the cake, the old woman became quiet, and soon fell asleep again. Lynn sat with her for an hour but she didn't wake.

As Lynn got up to leave, the old woman suddenly lifted her head.

"Hi, Lynn," she said, obviously pleased to see her daughter. "You missed the best chocolate cake today!"

Lynn leaned down to kiss her Mom's cheek. "Happy birthday, Mom," she whispered.

"Is it my birthday?" the old woman asked. "Well, imagine that."

Copyright 2013 Cia Williford
All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Don't take it personally, she said

"Don't take it personally," she said.

Today, I was raising money for Alzheimer's Awareness through a raffle, asking as little as $1 for two chances at a lovely custom portrait.

To those of you who donated without even thinking twice about it, thank you from the bottom of my heart. To those of you who donated and refused to put your name in the hat ("let somebody else win"), I love you. To those who donated above and beyond, you're an angel and I'm blessed to know you.

And then....

"Don't take it personally," she said.

....there's you. The person who calls herself my friend, yet wouldn't look me in the eye when I told you about the raffle. The person who never asks how my Dad is doing, but bends my ear relentlessly about her loved ones. The one who never hesitates to ask me when her kids are selling cookies, or she's walking in some event, or the Scouts are raising money, or she's trying to raise tuition for an art class, or her friends' cousin's spouse's niece needs money to pay her bills.

And didn't I always respond?

Today, you wouldn't look me in the eye. And you didn't put a dollar in the jar.

That hurt.

When I mentioned this to another friend this evening, she said, "Don't take it personally. It will eat you alive."

Don't take it personally? This is my father we're talking about. And my cousin, Mary. And my friends Barbara, and Janet, and Evelyn, and Eleanor, and Charlie. And their caregiver children, Missy, and Mary Alice, and Sue, and Maggie, and Gail. These are all people I love, and they are all suffering because of Alzheimer's.

And I am, too, in case you hadn't noticed.

Don't take it personally?

You're damn right I will.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pizza *and* Bowling!

Pizza! He ate three slices.
Friday was our monthly pizza day for the residents of Dad's Memory Care (MC) unit. It started out slow, everyone quiet and a bit sleepy, but turned out to be a lovely afternoon.

MC has a new activities aide who is wonderful with the residents. She's been bringing them an assortment of new and varied activities to do and the residents really seem to enjoy them. Friday was bowling, so after chowing down our pizza, everyone headed to the living room to bowl. Even my Dad got in on the act.

In the early years of their marriage, my parents were league bowlers. They got away from it over the years, but it was interesting to see some of that come back to Dad as he watched the other residents bowl. As one resident
Critiquing the other bowlers. :)
let go of a particularly, um, not-so-good, throw, Dad shook his head. "Too wide," he said softly. Sis and I looked at each other in amazement. Another time, someone threw a ball with very little momentum, and I heard Dad next to me blowing little puffs of air at the ball as if to make it go faster.

"Do you want to try, Dad?" I asked.

"Yeah, I'll take a go," he said.

We had to help him out of his chair, but he was determined to do it. You'll see my arms in the left side of the picture below. I stayed close in case Dad lost his balance. But he did really well. He got up to bowl three times!

With all the cheering and goodhearted joking going on, it turned out to be one of the best afternoons we've had in Memory Care. It was so wonderful to see the residents having a good time.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Our loved ones with Alzheimer's have a tendency to say or do things that are not always socially or politically correct. It's because they are losing their filters, the things in their head that tell them (and all of us), "No, that's not a polite thing to say or do." When it happens, we often cringe, worried that someone will take offense. But you know what? They can't help saying it, and if someone is offended by words or actions that your loved one has no control over, well, that's their problem, not yours. It also helps to maintain a sense of humor. Learn to laugh when the situation is funny. Learn to ignore it when it's not. Don't stress over something that just "is."

Case in point: Not too long ago my Dad asked one of his aides (a beautiful young woman of color), "Are you a slave?" She laughed, and said, "No, Hal, I'm a free woman." My Dad beamed at her. "That's wonderful!," he said, truly happy for her. A bit later, he asked another aide, "Do you own slaves?" "No, I don't," she replied. "Good to hear," Dad said. And he really was quite happy, and blissfully unaware that his questions were inappropriate.

And speaking of inappropriate behavior, he's also been known to pat a few bottoms. We'll leave those stories for another time. :)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Head's Up!

When my father was still functioning pretty well, Sis and I would take him out to eat lunch almost every time we visited him. Dad has always loved food, and it was a way for the three of us to do something enjoyable together. As his Alzheimer's progressed, though, it became more problematic: he'd take forever to decide what to order (even with our help), he'd make a mess of the table, he'd drop food on the floor, he'd require enormous amounts of napkins, he'd spend more time than was polite looking at other diners. You get the idea.

I hated the thought of having to cut out those restaurant meals. I wanted to delay that as long as possible because he still enjoyed them. I knew if I explained to the waitresses, etc. about Dad's Alzheimer's that the problem wouldn't be so bad. They'd be more understanding. (Well, most of them anyway.) On the other hand, though, explaining things to a stranger in front of my father seemed disrespectful (and we were always afraid the word "Alzheimer's" would scare the hell out of him  -- we never used it in front of him).

In short, we needed a way to give people a "head's up" about Dad's illness without upsetting him.

We handled it by carrying small cards (same size as a business card) that said: "The elderly person I'm with has Alzheimer's. Please be patient." We'd give them out at restaurants, hospitals, doctor's offices, anywhere we wanted people to be more patient with and tolerant of my Dad's illness. And it worked well. We didn't have to talk about Dad's condition in front of him (like he wasn't there), and people were more apt to smile at him rather than getting grouchy.

Sadly, Dad doesn't go out much anymore. But with the hope that these cards would be useful to others, I've had some printed using one of my Alzheimer's paintings on the front. (See photos below.) The benefit is twofold: the front of the card promotes Alzheimer's awareness; the back of the card promotes tolerance and understanding. A win-win!

I am making the cards available in my online shop for anyone who would like to purchase them. Cost is minimal, and you don't need many. Usually people will read the card, then hand it back to you to reuse.

I hope you find them useful.

Front of card

Back of card

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Doing a little organizing

I've posted these on our Facebook page but wanted to post them here, too, so they can be pinned on Pinterest. Sorry if you've already seen them, but we're doing our bit to raise awareness.