- Written by Terri Schlichenmeyer Terri Schlichenmeyer
Dad used to pride himself on being handy.
He could make anything, imagine anything, fix anything. He was handy, from tools to toys and kitchens to kids. But last week, Dad got lost on his way home from the grocery store, a trip he’s made once a week for 30 years, and it scared you both.
You might imagine what’s coming; find Living in the Moment by Elizabeth Landsverk, M.D., with Heather Millar, and be prepared for it.
So you noticed some memory or cognitive issues, and Dad’s not himself lately. How do you know if this new behavior is eccentricity or early dementia? Is this a normal sign of aging, or is it outside of normal?
What kind of dementia might he suffer from, and to what degree? You’ll want to get an official diagnosis, so you know what to do in the future, and why.
The first thing to know about what Dad’s going through is that dementia doesn’t mean “it’s all over.” There’s still plenty of life ahead for you both, perhaps for many years to come.
Next, remember that your loved one isn’t “trying to be difficult.” Their wild, out-of-the-ordinary behavior can’t be helped, and the disease is “so uncertain, so uneven.”
There are many possible ways to deal with forgetfulness, frustration, anger, and acting out, and there are things to avoid. Says Landsverk, solutions can sometimes be pleasant, even delightful.
Because Alzheimer’s and dementia cannot be cured, have a plan in place for your loved one’s care, but review it often. Things will change as time and the disease progress, so be willing to look at the bigger picture. That includes thinking about end-of-life issues, power of attorney papers, and legal and financial protections for the long term.
Watch for scams; there are too many people who prey on our vulnerable seniors. Encourage physical activity, a good diet, and as much autonomy as currently possible. Learn how to craft a workaround for the easier-to-deal-with issues. And remember that “it takes a village to care for an elder with dementia” and “you are not alone.”
The sand is not your friend.
It’s certainly not where you want to stick your head when a loved one shows signs of dementia, because that life’s not a beach. No, it’s manageable, and Living in the Moment can help.
Though it’s perhaps not as thorough or comprehensible as you may want later, author Landsverk (with author Millar) says in her introduction that she wanted this book to be easy to use.
She succeeded, with a broad overview of the basics, things to know now, medicines that will and won’t work, problems to watch out for, and what to ready yourself for in the future. The case studies inside this book are strong and are scary enough to spur quick action, and they’re balanced with quiet paragraphs of comfort.
This book is great for caregivers, but it’s also an essential read for anyone who’s any way related to a dementia patient. Find Living in the Moment and keep it handy.
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 14,000 books.