We’re Closing

As I may have told you, I am the guardian for my 90-year-old Aunt Eunice, who lives out of state in a very modest nursing home in southwest Virginia.  I visit her about every two and a half months, her and her roommate Juanita.

Juanita has looked out for my aunt in so many ways, and I believe her to have been a very positive influence in my aunt’s longevity.  As one small example of her thoughtfulness, if no aide is nearby at breakfast time, Juanita sees that Aunt Eunice knows what is on her breakfast tray and where it is.   My aunt has severe macular degeneration, which means that at this time in her life, she is practically blind.

Juanita has also made sure that their room is neat and clean as can be at all times.  This is over the past 10 years — it doesn’t matter when I show up; the room smells fresh and clean as can be.

When I visit, Juanita is invited to go with us out for breakfast.  When we get to Wal-Mart, she is handed a bit of money to spend as she wishes.  She in turn coaches me on what Aunt Eunice enjoys and needs.  (Eunice has to wait in the car due to my being unable to lift her into her wheelchair.)

And so it has gone, an arrangement that I have come to depend on and much appreciate — until yesterday afternoon.  I received a call from a social worker in the county where my aunt resides, informing me that the nursing home is closing down.

Not only has the nursing home been sold, but half of the residents have already moved out — including Juanita, to assisted living.  This has been my aunt’s home for the past 27 years.  I wonder where will she go; how is she going to get along without her roommate; who is going to look after her.

The first thing I did was go to Medicare.gov and then to Nursing Home Comparisons in the state of Virginia.  I found a comparison of three in the general vicinity of the town near where my aunt grew up and called home. An analysis of each facility was readily accessible that included an overall rating, adequacy of staffing, quality of care, and specific information regarding state inspections.

Sharing this information with my brother, we zeroed in on one location that appears to suit our aunt’s needs and will offer the added bonus of her being able to enjoy visits from two of her other nieces along with friends from her home church. So in a way, the closing of one door has opened a door for new life for our aunt!

Today our aunt will undergo an assessment for her future needs.  The new facility has indicated their willingness to consider her for residency.  Having spoken with my aunt earlier today, I found her to be excited about the possible move.

Assuming the move proceeds to the place we have chosen, my aunt and I will be making an extra stop at the assisted living to say good-bye to a roommate that we will not ever forget.








I want to tell you about a step back in time I took this past weekend in rural East Tennessee near the Hiawassee River.  The occasion was a local festival commemorating area history as the location for the start of the Cherokee Trail of Tears to Oklahoma and the place where a number of Civil War Battles were waged.

On a cold day last January as I drove south down the interstate toward Georgia to visit my husband’s family,  on a whim I took the Charleston exit as a break in the drive and to view the place where many of my childhood memories rest.  Arriving on the main street (old U.S. Route 11) out of the corner of my eye I saw a new building for the first time, Cherokee Heritage Center.

Upon entering, I met the curator.  When I told her about my family history in Charleston 1950-54, she remarked, “I’ll bet you knew my parents!”  And I did.  I remember her dad as custodian of the Methodist church where my dad was pastor and her mom who as church secretary created the church bulletin every week.

Now, the best part is coming – I was given the email for a childhood playmate I had had no contact with for the past 63 years.  When I got back to Ohio, I sent an email, trying to roughly fill in our years apart.  Am sure she wondered who in the world was writing to her.  But she did answer my email, giving me her rough fill in on her own life.  We discovered that our sons and their families live in the same city in Middle Tennessee.

Then this past weekend our families met at the festival.  I confirmed her birthday that I had remembered all these years.  It was one of the best days of my life, remembering our lives as we were as 11-year-olds, playing outdoors, unfettered and carefree, and visiting the landmarks we remembered.

I am sharing all this with you, my readers, because you may be searching for a gift for a loved one who is hard to buy for at this stage in their lives.  A priceless gift might be your assistance on the Web to locate a childhood friend they may have lost contact with and helping to make a connection to happen.



In 2010 as clinical psychologist Dr. Jeff Bjorck and his mother began their journey together facing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, Jeff began the grieving process that he knew would likely extend into the coming seven to ten years or more (what he knew as a typical progression).  In the midst of his grief, however, he was struck by his mother’s lifelong, unconquerable gratitude to God and her trust in Him as evident then more than ever.  Buoyed by this encouraging fact, he did his best to cherish each moment they had together and to celebrate the abilities that she still retained.  As he did so, his mother would occasionally surprise him with quotes about God, which continued to serve as assurance that God’s love for her remained constant.

As Alzheimer’s disease slowly but steadily usurped more of his mother’s mind, her persistent faith prompted the idea for this book, especially as she continued offering her comments on God in the midst of her increasing confusion.    Jeff says he found himself thanking God for each of her quotes, which seemed to provide glimpses through the fog to the bright and peaceful place where his mom was still very much at home with her Heavenly Father.

Of course, Jeff also knew how blessed he was that his mother had retained her cheerfulness and gratitude.  As a clinical psychologist Jeff knew it could have been equally possible that his mom would have become increasingly aggressive and irritable.  This merely depended upon which portions of her brain experienced deterioration first.  However, he says even if his mother had become angry and combative, he firmly believes that the Heavenly Father’s care and love for her would be just as constant.

Indeed, many caregivers do have parents or spouses whose Alzheimer’s disease draws them down into dismal places.  In his preface to this book Jeff Bjorck expresses sympathy if caregivers are tempted to wonder if this dark descent of their loved ones signals God’s abandonment.  His hope is that his mother’s story and quotes might encourage especially those who wrestle with such doubts about God’s love for an afflicted loved one.

In Twilight Meditations mother and son chronicle Irene’s regression through the journey of Alzheimer’s.   The book begins as Jeff introduces his mother Irene through a brief biography with photos of her artwork.  Son Jeff’s colorful photography of nature’s scenery fits perfectly with the ideas and themes of his mother’s wisdom.

An example of the simplicity of one quote is, “God always remembers, even if we forget.”

For an encouraging view into one mother’s journey through memory decline, read through Twilight Meditations.  Although the book can be easily finished in a single sitting, you may find yourself making unhurried returns to take in more of its beauty and the blessing of the faith-inspired quotes.

For information about obtaining a copy of Twilight Meditations, click here.


Full Speed Ahead

In this first of two articles, I am introducing two remarkable individuals, 30 years apart in age, who have set the bar for dynamic, intentional living.  And both are living with Alzheimer’s.

First, please meet John McGrath, former marathon runner, father of three, in the prime of his life at 59, and diagnosed with Early-Onset.

John originally in 2014 sought treatment through a Veterans Clinic for severe insomnia.  After extensive testing John was found to be suffering from sleep apnea and to have a medical history that included close family members who had Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

After going through extensive testing, he was given the following advice by his neurologist at the VA clinic:  to explore all avenues to slow the progress of his early-onset Alzheimer’s, to do his own research, and come up with a plan.

John dug in, ‘taking the bull by the horns,’ and is writing about his experiences.  What John found was that a healthy lifestyle will slow down the progression of the disease, if not keep it at bay for a long time.

His version of a healthy lifestyle has become a diet of nuts, seeds, berries, some salmon and other sources of Omega-3, and staying 100 percent away from sugars and grains – a diet focusing on keeping inflammation and infection at bay.  It is a lifestyle of exercise and activity, both physical and mental.

John is returning to running slowly.  In the past he hiked to the highest mountaintop in the lower 48 a couple of times, and he is intent on getting back to nature.  His dream is train and to hike great trails across the US Continent.

By his own statement he is going to be as active in his treatment as possible, and he’s going to write about it every day – a couple of sentences and maybe a chapter – for himself and for anyone also who is following the science of Alzheimer’s.

John plans to continue his effort to learn as much as possible about Alzheimer’s, to share it with others who have an interest, and to live for decades to come!

A former member of a television production team in the Chicago area, John now is a driver for Lyft and successfully manages two airbnb suites out of his home.  He desires to grow his business by adding two additional airbnbs.  To do this requires an investment.  Please click here for information if you are so inclined to assist John in reaching his goal.


I want you to know about a publication coming out this month written solely for caregivers of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, which happens to be the only book in the marketplace that addresses the often difficult to recognize non-memory-related medical conditions encountered by caregivers.  Written by an impressive group of experts at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Duke University, Author/Editor Dr. Philip Sloane seems to understand exactly where we caregivers are when he states the following:

When healthy adults begin to feel sick – maybe it begins with nausea or body aches, or feeling unusually worn out – they notice these changes and do things to feel more comfortable.  They might cancel appointments take medicine, drink more fluids, or call a medical provider for advice.

But for someone whose ability to make decisions is impaired by Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, even something as simple as indigestion can be a very different story.  The person may not be able to express discomfort in words and become anxious and irritable, restless, or more confused than usual.  They may not want to eat or drink, or refuse their regular medicine.

Family caregivers face situations like this on a day-to-day basis.  Often they need to act like detectives, looking for changes in the person and then trying to figure out what is happening and what to do.  In addition they must manage chronic illnesses like diabetes or lung disease and communicate with health professionals in offices, emergency departments, hospitals, and nursing homes.

And, while caregiver resources abound on coping with stress, decreasing challenging behaviors, managing daily care routines, maintaining safety, and enriching social and emotional well-being, very few resources exist to guide caregivers when new or worsening medical signs or symptoms pop up, or in determining whether a nonspecific symptom like not eating well, or behavioral symptoms such as agitation represents a serious problem or something that can be managed at home.

That’s where the new book, The Alzheimer’s Medical Advisor:  A Caregiver’s Guide to Common Medical and Behavioral Signs and Symptoms in Persons with Dementia comes in.  Written by experts at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, it includes comprehensive two-page guides on over 50 common medical, nonspecific, and behavioral issues.

With this book in their home, caregivers will feel more prepared to assist when new or worsening symptoms arise, and better able to communicate and partner with health care providers.  Indeed, researchers tested the book in over 50 caregivers over six months and found it increased their confidence in providing multiple aspects of home medical care.

Pages on medical symptoms such as cough, fever, and diarrhea, for example, give important facts about possible causes, signs that suggest urgent care is needed, complications to watch for, and tips for home management in someone who may not be able to explain how they feel or who might not easily go along with a typical treatment plan.

 This book also covers the more vague and troublesome nonspecific topics, such as increased confusion or eating less than usual, as well as behavioral symptoms such as agitation and restlessness.  Additional sections inform caregivers how to take vital signs and identify and manage dehydration and pain – information all caregivers need to know but often learn the hard way through trial and error and agonizing (and sometimes avoidable) trips to the emergency room.

The book also includes practical information on different parts of the health care system, such as ways to make hospitalization more comfortable, what to look for in a nursing home or home health aide, or what to expect from end-of-life care services. 

Additional chapters cover how to help with medication routines, and, importantly, how the caregiver can stay healthy and safe while providing care.  With checklists and forms to keep medical information organized, the book encourages caregivers to become an active, informed partner in health.

One caregiver who tested the book said:  “I used to get so panicked when things with [my husband’s] heart or blood pressure happened.  This book really calmed me down; I feel a lot less stressed…it covers everything I can think of.”

I heartily agree with Dr. Sloane when he says, Any reference that can empower caregivers to feel more confident in their many roles and bring them peace of mind is worth having on the shelf!

The Alzheimer’s Medical Advisor (Sunrise River Press, 2017) is available from major retailers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and from the Sunrise River Press website:  http://www.sunriseriverpress.com.


Evan Bass Zeisel is a writer, actor, and producer who has spent five years working on a clinical trial studying the effects of theater on Alzheimer’s disease.  Not just devoting his energies to the clinical trial, he has also spent much more time than that with the Alzheimer’s community.  The result of his extensive study and experience is a 22-minute film, “How You Are To Me”, focusing on the relationship between an individual living with Alzheimer’s and the loved one who is caring for him.

Intertwined are lessons in good communication techniques honed through his work with the study and how we must adjust the way we interact to match with what individuals with Alzheimer’s can process.

The goal of this talented producer is to help caregivers realize that they are not alone, to be honest with the disease,  and to recognize that beautiful moments still exist,  regardless of the stage an individual is with the disease.

I had the privilege of previewing this powerful film, and I want you to know how it came across for me.

First off, viewing the film took me back to those times when something would abruptly set my mother off and I had to grapple with an alternative focus and quickly divert her attention.   I for sure do not remember being able to ‘keep it together’ as well as the women actors did in the film.  As I watched, I actually felt my body tensing as it used to at my mom’s unexpected behavior.  (Actually, I was transported mentally back to the nights before our long drives to Virginia when my mom would be fully dressed, standing in the hallway outside the bedroom, waiting and ready to climb in the car at 2:00 a.m.)

I learned much from watching how the women in the film were able to interact to match with what their mates could process.  I marveled at how the younger wife gently listened with full attention as her husband  told her the same story for the umpteenth time of how they met.

The film utilized Memory Books and Memory Boxes similar to the Memories from My Life posters.  Evan stated to me, “The impact of having a visual link to the things from an individual’s past, especially ones that have great emotional meaning, is an amazing tool.”

How effective was the juxtaposition of actors playing the couple in their youth and elders playing the couple as they aged. There were many moments of loving tenderness still very much a part of the younger and older couples’ lives together.

So much that we care givers can identify with is included in this short film.  To view the trailer of “How You Are To Me” go to:   YouTube https://youtu.be/XSX1nTqsRkw.






































































































individuals with Alzh





At the nursing home where I volunteer, most patients have pictures of family in their rooms, but very few can view their photos easily.  Usually, the pictures are on a table across the room and very few photo images are large enough to be enjoyed.

I discovered how much family pictures meant for my mom when her memory began to fade.  For her, being able to see herself as she used to look and being able to view photos of loved ones was a real lifeline at a time when so many life changes were occurring.

With limited family visits because of travel distance, she was rather cut off from the people who cared for her.  That’s when the idea for a poster with enlarged images and photo captions hit home.

For the month of May I am offering my readers a discount of 25% on every poster order received by May 31st, 2017.  At checkout, simply enter the following coupon code:  MAY25 to receive 25% off on any poster order.

You may access the Memories from My Life poster site with either of the following:  http://www.MemoriesfromMyLife.com or http://www.PostersAsTherapy..com.  Then follow the easy prompts step by step.

If you prefer to have printed instructions, click on the menu item HELP on the MemoriesfromMyLife.com poster site to print off easy-to-follow instructions.

I welcome hearing from you on your experience of building the poster and feedback from your loved one.

Four poster sizes: