89 Year Old Relives Cheerleader Days

89 year old cheerleader

courtesy: WBTV News

89 year old Pauline Heafner was a cheerleader at Belmont High School (Belmont, NC) back in 1943.  They were some of the happiest days that she can recall given her dementia diagnosis of late. As  WBTV’s Kristen Hampton reports –  “The best memories of your life are sometimes the oldest ones.  For some people, those are the only memories left.”

In an act of absolute kindness, staff members at Abernethy Laurels asked the cheerleading squad at South Point High School to come visit the residents, and to do a few cheers.  The girls were especially ready for Pauline…

The whole squad of girls brought special pom-poms for Pauline and the staff made her a uniform complete with a huge “B” on the front just like the old days. Pauline gave the girls some good advice on keeping the crowds enthused and even let them hear some of her old cheers. – Kristen Hampton, WBTV

89 Year Old Relives Cheerleader Days

A good life is about give-and-take, but when you have dementia there’s a great deal of taking.  Only a week later, Pauline’s recall of the recent visit down memory lane is no more.  Shaylyn Ladd, PR Director for the retirement community told WBTV “Anytime with dementia it’s typically their short-term memory that goes first”.  That’s the bitter cruelness of dementia, it robs us of one of our most precious resources, our memories.

What Is Dementia?

What is Dementia

Teepa Snow on Dementia

Dementia is defined as “a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning”.  But how much do you really know about dementia? Where does Alzheimer’s Disease fit into the dementia discussion?  Should I be worried about mom if she’s exhibiting memory lapses?

These are all questions that come up when discussing dementia with friends, family and many times when we’re in professional circles.  This brain disease is hitting a huge swath of aging individuals these days.  Did you know that 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia?  We wanted to share one of the most comprehensive talks you’ll ever hear on the topic of Dementia.  The talk is given by Teepa Snow, one of America’s leading educators on dementia.  Her seminar is entitled “What is dementia”?  Watch the video below and let us know what you learned!New test for Alzheimers Disease

What Is Dementia?

Alzheimer’s Daughter | Meet Author Jean Lee

Alzheimer's daughter book coverAccording to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States with one in nine people over 65 being diagnosed with the disease.  While the statistic is staggering, consider the 15 million Americans who are the unpaid caregivers (and heroes in my eyes)  of Alzheimer’s sufferers.  Husbands, wives, sons and daughters are taking on the role of “caregiver” and facing the challenges of caring for a loved one in the most intimate of ways.  The following is a narrative by author Jean Lee who wrote Alzheimer’s Daughter, a story of her journey caring for BOTH of her parents who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.


“Both of my parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s on the same day. I lived one mile from them. My only sibling, my sister, lived 1,000 miles away. Three years prior to the diagnosis, we grew concerned as their mental clarity declined. My sister suggested I keep a journal of oddities. Whenever we spoke by phone, I’d open the journal and review.

My journal became the core of a book honoring my parents’ love story and documenting their simultaneous decline.

Alzheimer’s Daughter is the story of our parents’ love and fierce protection of one another, and the hand-in-hand loss of their minds. Yet, this is my story too––the story of a mid-fiftyish woman balancing marriage, children, and career, while struggling to be the caretaker for parents who are failing so fast neither can tend to the other.

Infused with the romance of my parents’ WWII love letters, Alzheimer’s Daughter is written in three parts.

The first introduces readers to my parents as healthy, vibrant lovers, raising my sister and me during the ‘God and Country’ era of the post-WWII 1950’s through the rebellious Vietnam protests of the 1970’s.

author of alzheimer's daughter Jean Lee parents

The second details my journal, as our parents’ off-kilter episodes increase ––some as subtle as becoming lost in a favorite shopping mall, escalating to Ibby throwing things in anger.

In the last portion, I search for family treasures among the trash as I dismantle and sell the family home in which my parents have become hoarders.

Five years and three moves later, my sister and I are forced to place our parents in a locked Alzheimer’s unit.

Despite the raw ravages of the disease, I conclude by remembering the optimism oozing from my parents’ core as they found joy until life’s end. I marvel at the devotion they had, holding hands and repeating, “We’ve been so lucky, we’re so happy,” even when they couldn’t remember their own names. I hear their voices echo back “I love you,” to me after they’d lost all other ability to speak.

I seek peace by envisioning Ed and Ibby together, restored and reunited; while I hope telling their story provides help to you, as you grapple with your own caretaking decisions.

Alzheimer’s Daughter was written with heart and soul.

It took four years to write and publish Alzheimer’s Daughter. During that time I struggled with guilt, not knowing if I had the right to reveal such things about my parents. Since publication, the book is gaining good reviews. Positive reactions such as, There are many books written about Alzheimer’s. This one opens the door and let’s us in,” by Penpusher, have brought me peace and have reconnected me with my parents’ smiling souls.”

Author of Alzheimer's Daughter Jean Lee

Jean Lee lives with her husband in small-town Ohio, twenty minutes from anything. Although she worked full time while her parents were ill, she is now retired after twenty-two years of teaching elementary school. Her children are married with children of their own. Five grandchildren are her greatest blessings.
Her latest writing project, Lexi’s Triplets, features her triplet grandchildren, written through the voice of Lexi Lee, the family dog. Connect with Jean by email, her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.  Her book can be purchased on Amazon.

A Father Teaches Son Valuable Lesson

father teaches sonYou’re allowed to cry while watching this video… There are many moments that provide teaching opportunities for parents, and this is certainly one of those moments.  In this beautiful short video directed by Constantin Pilavios, a father teaches his son a most valuable lesson in humility and patience.

Sometimes it’s easy to get impatient with elderly friends or family members, especially when memory is fading, or dementia like symptoms begin to set in.  Pilavios does a marvelous job reminding us that patience is indeed a virtue… His story is both heart warming and inspirational.

Father Teaches Son Valuable Lesson

If you were moved by this heartwarming story, you’ll love A Letter From a Mother to her Daughter.  But just a word of advice beforehand… better get a fresh kleenex. :)

3 New Studies Show Impact Of Exercise On Alzheimer’s Disease

Exercise and Alzheimer's DiseaseOn Thursday the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) reported that 3 new (randomized controlled) trials demonstrated the positive impact aerobic exercise plays in patients with varying degrees of dementia. The new well-controlled trials provide further hope to millions that we can impact the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

From the AAIC press release: “There is a convincing body of evidence that regular physical activity can reduce the risk of cognitive decline, and possibly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. In healthy older people, studies suggest physical exercise can improve cognition. However, until now, whether physical exercise could improve symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s, or beneficially impact the physical changes in the brain caused by the disease, was unknown.”

“Based on the results we heard reported today at AAIC 2015, exercise or regular physical activity might play a role in both protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and also living better with the disease if you have it,” – Maria Carrillo, PhD, Alzheimer’s Association Chief Science Officer

Impact of Exercise on Alzheimer’s Disease

The 3 studies involved in the research were:

  • The Danish ADEX Study, the first large, controlled trial of moderate to high intensity exercise in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s in Denmark. Steen Hasselbalch, MD, and colleagues from the Danish Dementia Research Centre (DDRC), Copenhagen, Denmark
  • A Tau Protein Study, a 6-month randomized controlled trial of moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise in 65 sedentary adults 55-89 years old with MCI (mild cognitive impairment) to test whether aerobic exercise might also lower tau levels in the brain.  Researchers Laura Baker, PhD and colleagues from Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston Salem NC, USA
  • An Aerobic Exercise in VCI Study, a six-month study of 71 adults 56-96 years old with confirmed cases of mild VCI (vascular cognitive impairment).  Teresa Liu-Ambrose, Canada Research Chair, PhD, PT, University of British Columbia and researcher at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health

Each of the 3 studies showed a positive correlation between exercise and the impact it can have on certain dementias.  The Alzheimer’s Association further reports that “There is a growing body of evidence that certain lifestyle choices, such as staying mentally active, eating a heart-healthy diet and staying socially engaged, can slow cognitive decline as people age.” It’s never to late to improve your health!

Click here to see the Alzheimer’s Associations new infographic titled 10 Ways to Love your Brain!

ALZ.ORG: 10 Ways To Love Your Brain

There was a great deal of positive news reported at The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) last week.  Among many topics discussed, 3 studies demonstrated the positive impact that exercise can have on dementia.  These studies further reinforce the notion that WE CAN impact this devastating disease in a number of ways.  Eating right, getting enough aerobic exercise and staying actively engaged with our communities seem to yield positive results for aging adults (with or without Alzheimer’s Disease).

The Alzheimer’s Association recently published a great infographic titled “10 Ways  To Love Your Brain”.  Given all of the new developments of the week, we thought it was appropriate to pass along.

10 Ways To Love Your Brain

impact of exercise on Alzheimer's Disease

Courtesy Alz.org

If you like the infographic make sure you pass it along to a friend!

Living With Dementia

Living With Dementia

Dementia is defined as “a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.”  For anyone who’s life has been touched by dementia, you know how difficult it is for the afflicted, and their loved ones.

To put this growing epidemic into context, The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the number of people living with dementia (worldwide) is currently estimated at 47.5 million.  Incredibly it’s predicted to increase to 75.6 million by 2030.  Are you listening Baby Boomers?  We’re facing a crisis that is going to affect someone you love, in your lifetime.  You can bet on it.

A new case of dementia is diagnosed every 4 seconds.  The total number of new cases of dementia each year worldwide is nearly 7.7 million, implying 1 new case every 4 seconds. The number of people with dementia is expected to increase to 75.6 million in 2030 and 135.5 million in 2050. – World Health Organization

What’s it like living with someone afflicted with dementia?  In many cases, it’s like watching someone slip away before your very eyes.  There’s a tipping point to dementia where family members become more burdened than their loved one who is suffering.  Dementia sufferers can become so sick that they simply don’t recognize you, their surroundings, or even themselves.  They simply fall into a void.

Let me introduce you to Reddit user vingverm (otherwise known as Jake from Australia).  Jake’s  photo journal shares the decline of his 58 year old mother Jacquie.  Jacquie had been suffering from Pick’s Disease, which manifests with Dementia like symptoms, and leads to death (often in 2-5 years). The photos speak louder than words, so I’ll let his powerful lens give you a glimpse into his loving family.

Living With Dementia

Living with Dementia

“This was taken in 2005 or so. At this point, Jacquie had Pick’s Disease, but it had been misdiagnosed as menopause. She would be about 48 here.” – Vingverm/Reddit

Living With Dementia

“On the beach, around 2010. Lots of Jacquie around. She can’t remember too much though.” – Vingverm/Reddit

Living with Dementia

“2010 again. Riding on the back of dad’s motorbike was one of her favourite things to do. She got quite terrified when the helmets were on, but once moving had a blast. This had to stop in 2011, when an on-bike paranoia attack nearly caused an accident.” – Vingverm/Reddit

Living with Dementia

“Beach-time walks. Weight is falling off. Conversation is non-existent.” – Vingverm/Reddit

Living with Dementia

“The birth of her first grandchild. She had been looking forward to being a grandmother for years. ” – Vingverm/Reddit

Living with Dementia

“Still knows how to party. #yolo.” – Vingverm/Reddit

Living with Dementia

“Cuddles with her 14 month old grandson. He’s very careful with her, knows she’s special.” – Vingverm/Reddit

Living with Dementia

“She doesn’t walk very much anymore. And she has lost a large amount of weight.” – Vingverm/Reddit

Living with Dementia

“Fun times at the beach. She’s 58 here. Her eyes aren’t always open, and if they are, she’s staring into the void.” – Vingverm/Reddit

Living with Dementia

“Sometime’s we’ll move to her to beanbags on the floor.” – Vingverm/Reddit

Living with Dementia

“She still smiles and laughs sometimes. I have no idea why. I really hope she dies soon.” – Vingverm/Reddit

Are you caring for someone with Dementia? Do you know someone who is? Would you be willing to share your story with us? Our comment section (below) is an open forum for you.

New Study Finds Correlation Between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease

A new study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation (JIC) found a correlation in both diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.  Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine found that elevated blood glucose levels stimulate the amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide, which is a key factor implicated in sufferers of Dementia (and specifically those with Alzheimer’s disease).

While the relationship between diabetes and Alzheimer’s has long been suspected and studied, the newly discovered link could help researchers develop treatments that reduce the harmful effects of elevated blood sugar on brain function, lead author Shannon Macauley, Ph.D., told reporters. — John Hall (McKnight’s)

This isn’t the first such research to suggest the link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease.  In December 2006, Edward R. Rosick (DO, MPH, DABHM) wrote a compelling article for Life Extension Magazine suggesting a”Deadly Connection Between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s“.  In his research nearly 10 years ago, Dr. Rosick noted that “those with insulin resistance or diabetes are at significantly higher risk of developing one of today’s most devastating and incurable neurological disorders: Alzheimer’s disease”.

Research like the diabetes studies noted above, inch us closer to treatments that could stave off or even cure somebody of Alzheimer’s Disease.  More focus, funding and analysis is necessary however, in order to scale back the growth of these pending epidemics.  Did you know the Alzheimer’s Association reports that 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s Disease?  200,000 of those people are under the age of 65!  We encourage you to take good care of yourself (and your loved ones), to get yourself educated on Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, and support your local community advocates (like the good folks at alz.org).

Diabetes and Alzheimer's Disease

New PBS Documentary On Family Caregiving

Caring for Mom and DadIf you’re a family caregiver, or want to know what caregiving is all about, you need to watch the new PBS documentary entitled “Caring for Mom and Dad”.  A family caregiver is a person who provides “care” to a family member, a neighbor, a partner or even a friend.  According to the National Center on Caregiving, there are 43.5 million caregivers provide care for someone aged 50 (or older).  Baby Boomers are facing a tidal wave of caregiving needs, and many boomers are caring for a parent at home.

Informal caregiver and family caregiver are terms used to refer to unpaid individuals such as family members, partners, friends and neighbors who provide care. These persons can be primary (i.e. the person who spends the most time helping) or secondary caregivers, full time or part time, and can live with the person being cared for or live separately. Formal caregivers are volunteers or paid care providers associated with a service system. — The Family Caregiver Alliance

The need for caregiving services at home has given rise to burgeoning businesses that offer home health services, home care services and hospice care.  Most of us simply aren’t well equipped to take care of our aging loved ones.  Understanding the needs of dementia sufferers, or more specifically – the demands of someone with alzheimer’s disease can take on new meaning when coming face-to-face with these prospects.  How comfortable would you be bathing your mom or dad?  Would you know what to do?  Would you even know how to transfer them?

The new PBS documentary “Caring for Mom and Dad” puts the caregiving conundrum into context.  It focusses both on the challenges of family caregiving… and the beauty of family caregiving.  It’s a time when life comes full circle for many of us.  Our parents, who nurtured us and cared for us as children have increasingly crucial care needs that require attention. Because we love them so much, the tug to provide care is always present.

View the trailers to the documentary above, and when you have time – Watch the entire documentary here –> Caring For Mom And Dad – A PBS Documentary on Family Caregiving. The video is almost an hour long (54:19) so you’ll want to clear some time.  If you do, I assure you it will be well worth your time.

Are you a family caregiver?  Have some tips for our readers?  Leave us a comment below!


Gently Showering Your Aging Parent

showering your aging parentWe love to pass along caregiving tips that might help our readers with aging parents.  One of the realities of caregiving that many new family caregivers don’t fully understand when faced with these responsibilities is showering and bathing a loved one.  This is a delicate subject for both the family caregiver as well as the aging parent.  This is a vulnerable (and scary) time for both, but it doesn’t have to be if you understand some of the basic techniques associated with this exercise.

Caregivers for Caregivers put this great educational video together on showering your aging parent.  They offer a wide variety of information that provides help to Caregivers of all types. One of Caregivers for Caregivers mantras reads; “We help you look at the world to see it as the new normal”.  Today we’d like to share a video that provides great tips on showering your aging parent.  We’ve included a clip below.

Tips: Showering Your Aging Parent

  • The caregiver should over communicate.  Letting your aging parent know exactly what’s going on at all times (and why) is important and will set everyone at ease.
  • The caregiver should plan the shower routine.  Notice that he has the proper equipment (chair, towel, shower temperature, etc.) all ready for his resident.
  • Keep your loved one covered so their not cold when out of the water.