Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Lyn's counting down the days until we arrive for our summer visit.

Each day on the way to day hab, she asks Mom "How long until the kids get here?"  Lyn has referred to my husband and me as "the kids" for as long as we've been together.  She picked it up from Mom.  Add in my children and "the kids" now means my whole household.

Mom tells her how many days until we arrive.  Yesterday, Lyn added in a new part of the conversation.  "I wish all those days were go fastly."  Mom asked if she meant "quickly."  "No.  Fastly is faster than quickly."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Alzheimer's Blood Test

We may be one step closer to having a blood test to diagnose Alzheimer's.  The test still needs to be proven out as a valid clinical diagnostic tool, however, it appears like it could be about 93% accurate in diagnosing individuals with Alzheimer's.  If such a test proves out and provides a reliable, repeatable, simple and affordable diagnostic tool, years of wondering could be removed from some patients as they struggle to get a diagnosis.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sorting out Ethnicity

Lyn is very excited that we will be visiting next month.  She's counting down the days.  I think our pending visit got her thinking about my little one in such a way that she got stuck trying to figure out kiddo's ethnicity.  My husband and I adopted our youngest after several years of fostering when reunification with the birth family was impossible.  Our child is of a different ethnicity than the rest of our household.

She asked if my child is "Black Hungarian" which made us chuckle.  Lyn's logic, as she explained it to me, goes like this:  There is a man at day hab who answers the phones.  He is black.  (My child) has black, curly hair.  My husband half Hungarian.  Therefore, is (my child) Black Hungarian?  

Her logic made me smile.  She's just trying to make a connection to something familiar to help her understand my child's history.  My child is Hispanic and spoke nearly no English when placed with us. My child's hair is black and curly and kiddo's skin is significantly darker than ours.  My child has also started to notice these differences.  So, we told Lyn some of what we tell our child.  

Kiddo's has Hungarian and Spanish names because both play a role in this child's identity.  Kiddo's hair, eyes and skin are dark because both birth parents are from Mexico.  Kiddo is our child because we  cannot picture our family any other way.  Mom is kiddo's Grandma and Lyn is kiddo's Aunt just as they are to my eldest.  She agrees that's all that matters.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Losing It

Mom writes:

My daughter has had a somewhat difficult week. Tonight she was her old self. I have a file cabinet I'm giving away and have been looking for the key. I looked everwhere I could think of but no luck. When she got home I mentioned that I can't find them. With almost a disgusted look she pointed to a table I was sitting next to and asked "what about in that drawer?" I had difficulty opening it since the wood is swollen due to humidity. I got it open about 2 inches and there were the keys. She "reminded" me that I asked her to remember where I put them a year ago.

She lowered her voice and said "You are losing it, too."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bedtime Adventures

You never know what Lyn's going to come up with any given night as she prepares for bed.

Recently, she asked Mom "Do some people get into their pajamas after they take their bath?"  It was an early evening and Mom confirmed that they did so they could completely relax.  Lyn followed up with "I kinda wondered because I might try that."  Lyn gets into her pajamas after her bath unless she's going out with her respite provider.  So, 26 days out of 30, she does exactly this.  This exchange made Mom and I smile.

Earlier this week, Lyn stayed up a little late.  When she did go to bed, Mom suddenly could hear her howling with laughter and realized Nikka was not in sight.  Nikka had followed Lyn to her room and was up on the bed.  Lyn would put her blanket on the dog.  The dog would look sad but didn't move.  Lyn was laughing in peals each time they did this.  When the dog spotted Mom, she jumped off the bed, ran for a drink and ran back to jump on the bed again.  Mom grabbed the blanket and covered the dog to Lyn's delight.  She was squealing as the dog just sat there looking sad.

Along the same lines, there was an incident earlier this month.  One afternoon, shortly after they got home Lyn bumped the couch, not hard, and Mom heard "Oh Damn."  When asked what she said, Lyn never turned around when answering "a bad word."  Later she put something on the table but it slipped off and Mom heard "God" then she turned around and said "Oops."  Mom asked who has been saying those things and with a straight face, Lyn said "I don't know" and went about her business.  It was difficult for Mom to not laugh.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Alarming Headlines

There are plenty of alarming headlines out there that can easily work you into a lather if you let them.  One of the most recent headline that caught my eye read If you think you have Alzheimer's, you just might, studies suggest. 

The reason this article title is alarming is that it does two things:  First, it plays on the fear of Alzheimer's in the general population.  Most people don't know very much about Alzheimer's, the risks, symptoms or the rate of it in the population.  We all forget and the fear of Alzheimer's is touched on when we misplace our keys or forget an appointment.  What most people don't realize is that forgetting is normal.  An individual should be concerned not when they misplace their keys, but when they look at the keys and do not know what they are.

The second reason this title is alarming is that the title's author tries to lend credence to its fear tactic by tacking on the final two words of "studies suggest."  Which studies?  How many?  The article does cite the work of three researchers.  However, the studies cited appear to focus on participants who older than 65.  The individual story highlighted by the article is of a woman who is 60.  In the case of Alzheimer's, 5 years of age has a dramatic difference in diagnosis.  It is the difference between the more aggressive early on-set form of the disease and the less aggressive form of the disease most people think of when they think of Alzheimer's.  The rate of early on-set Alzheimer's is about 5% of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

While it is good to bring attention to Alzheimer's, it dismays me that alarming headlines are such a common approach.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Increasing Agitation

Mom and I are noticing an increase in Lyn's agitation levels.  She is up out of her chair more, pacing.  She's moving a bit faster than normal and her movements speak of her agitation.  A quick shuffle to one side of the room where she twists about like she's looking for something and then a quick shuffle to the other side of the room.  She might pick something up, put it down and come back a time or two before settling for a conversation.  On Sunday, I watched as she did this for more than five minutes at the start of our call.  

She's also becoming harder to redirect.  When she gets a thought in her head, she's latching onto it as though it is the only thing that matters.  On Sunday, for example, she was mad that her respite provider had asked if she wanted to visit yard sales or if she ever wanted to visit a bar.  The Temperance lecture was out in full force about how "I don't drink and I never have.  I don't like that stuff."  I was able to distract her by showing her the cards she and Mom sent in the mail for my husband's birthday.  Lyn was happy to see that he had received the cards and that they had arrived in plenty of time.  

Lyn's also struggling more to get out her thoughts.  "What I mean is...  I was thinking... For the first point..." and on it goes until she gets past the hurdle of her thought and gets it out.  

These are just the ongoing changes we see with her right now.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Collecting Pennies

Lyn's happy that I sent her the glass milk bottle I had in the back of the pantry.  The pennies fit into the mouth of the bottle easily for Lyn.

She's been collecting pennies for a while and does not like to take them out of her purse.  Her purse has been getting a bit heavier over the past few weeks.  The bottle has convinced her to take them out so she can save them in the bottle where she can easily see them.  She has decided to collect pennies because she and Mom "will need money if we go traveling this summer."

Lyn approached their lovely neighbor and told her "if you have any old pennies you don't use anymore, I'll take them."  She's subtle like that.  She also decided she needed to find a way to earn more pennies. She thought about it and felt that shredding papers for Mom would be a good way to earn pennies.  When we had a conversation yesterday, she proudly showed off the bag of shredded papers, the contents of a two-drawer file cabinet that Mom needed emptied.  Lyn has even extended the offer of this paid service to her speech therapist, asking for payment in pennies only.

She's happy about how she's collecting pennies and wants to fill up her bottle.  If she fills that one up, I'll get her another.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Noticing or Not

Mom moved the blanket box out of Lyn's room.  She also moved out a small side table and another piece of furniture.  Lyn didn't notice.

The move happened while Lyn was at day hab.  That evening, she spent time in her room prepping for her bath and then afterwards getting dress.  When she went into her room for the night, she had several minutes before her light was turned out as she and Mom turned on her oxygen condenser.  In the morning, the reverse routine was gone through.

Mom eventually asked her if she had noticed that the blanket box was gone.  Lyn said "Of course.  I saw."

She really hadn't and that's OK too.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dementia Dogs

Nikka has been a great addition to the family and has provided Lyn with a tremendous amount of joy, love and support.  Lyn and Mom would suffer more if it were not for the crazy antics of the dog who does 560s each day.  Nikka, however, is not a trained dementia dog.

What is a dementia dog, you ask?

Dementia dogs are service dogs which have been specially trained to work with the dementia patient.  As with other service dogs, these have trained to respond to alarms, to bring pouches with the patients medication and to provide other acts of support to their people.

Training dogs to support dementia patients is a new concept.  In April 2012, the Glasgow School of Art    made the suggestion in a competition and subsequently partnered with Alzheimers Scotland.  Dementia Dogs was founded.  At the time of this writing, their bandwidth was exceeded due to the announcement of the first trained dogs being placed.  Hopefully, by the time you read this, they will be back up and running.

I love this idea and hope all involved decide it is a worthwhile resource that benefits the dementia patient and their care givers while providing the dogs with good homes and challenging jobs.

Additional Information:
First Dementia Dogs Start Work with Owners

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Of Blanket Boxes and Toes

Seven years ago, Mom and Lyn moved into their home.  Seven years ago, Mom placed a wooden blanket box in Lyn's room where it has remained since.  It is in the corner furthest from the door.  It is now in need of a new location in the home.

Lyn has started kicking it pretty regularly as she walks by it.  She's not kicking it on purpose and is not doing so in anger.  She's unstable and she's walking right into it.  Last week, she bruised her toe on it.

The area to walk by the box really is big enough for most people.  Lyn's not most people.  So, while the box has been in the same spot since they moved in, Mom's now measuring to find the best location for it out of Lyn's path.  Even if it ends up in the garage for a time, it is better there then causing Lyn to injure herself in its current position.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Picnic

Mom, Lyn and their lovely neighbor had a nice trip out to Quarai for the picnic.  They were able to walk the trail around the ruins before sitting beneath the cotton wood trees to eat their lunch.  The land was turning green from the recent rains and the lizards were fat as they scurried among the leaves around the picnic tables.  Lyn even stopped to pose for a picture or two.

Before they left, they heard a chirping bark originating in the tree above them.  Mom got up and circled the tree to see if she could find the source of the sound.  It was a ground squirrel scurried past them from his burrow a few minutes before.  He was high in the tree, stretched along a branch, watching them and barking a warning to the others.  They've never seen a ground squirrel up a tree before.  It was quite a topic of conversation with Lyn when we spoke after the picnic.

She had a good time.  She was excited to go "someplace new", having forgotten that she's been here before.  She had a happy day.

When the neighbor showed Lyn this picture, Lyn commented "I look good!"  Her memory may be failing, but her humility is right where it always has been.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Difference a Week Makes

A week ago, Mom, Lyn and their lovely neighbor decide that it was time to pack picnic lunch and go out for an afternoon.  Mom suggested Quarai.  The neighbor had never been and readily accepted the suggestion.  Lyn remembered our previous visit to Quarai which was only one of a number of times she's been there.

The week has passed.  A rain fell and brought the first water they've had in about 8 months.  The grass will have popped in tufts from the red sandy soil.  They are still planning their picnic tomorrow and Lyn wanted to know where they were going.

Mom told Lyn once again that they would picnic at Quarai.  In the week since they first made their plans, Lyn has forgotten what Quarai is or where it located.  She has forgotten that she's been there before.

She has told their neighbor "We're going some place new!"

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Mom commented yesterday that Lyn and I have always been opposites.  I don't think you could have planned it do the degree that we are however.

She's blonde, taller than me and used to be slimmer.   I'm brunette, shorter than her and always on the heavier side.  She's an award winning athlete and I'm bookish.  She's an extravert and I'm an introvert.  Blue eyes to brown eyes.  Conservative to liberal.  Gregarious to serious.  The differences go on and on.

I may not be able to confide in her or share an understanding about the foibles of my children.  I'll never hold a child of hers or witness her wedding.  I'll never see her graduate from college or be able to share with her what I've learned in my reading nor the challenges I face at work.  

We've touched on these differences before, but they bely the similarities.  We both love our family and dogs and a good laugh.  We like to play jokes on each other and spend time with each other.    We like being available to show support for each other.  I've attended more Special Olympics events than I can count.  She's attended school activities for me including choir concerts and even my college graduation.  

She's my sister no matter how different we may be.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


In yesterday's post, Mom mentioned my sister's "Temperance lecture."  It may be time to explain.  Lyn's very opposed to imbibing alcohol.

Lyn doesn't drink alcohol and doesn't think others should either.  She used to just answer "No WAY!" if someone asked her if she drank, liked beer or wanted something alcoholic to drink.  She knows she's old enough to have something alcoholic but is adamant in her refusal to the point that it is almost comical.  We were not raised in a dry household and I'm not sure where she picked up this absolutist stance.

She knows I feel differently.  She's seen the wine and other alcohol in my house.  She's seen me cook with it and drink it.  Generally, she doesn't lecture me about me.  She will lecture me about the ills of drinking for others.

When we visit in August, we'll also be attending the wedding of my dear friend who was my Maid of Honor many moons ago.  Mom offered to keep my children overnight so that my husband and I can freely attend the reception.  It was a winning proposal.  Lyn and the children will do fine at the wedding.  Lyn won't do well at the reception.  My kids don't need to be out late.  My husband and I would very much like to celebrate my friend's wedding and Mom loves the time with her grandchildren.  So, date night!  By staying at the hotel, we don't have to worry about a designated driver.

When we were talking these plans over with Mom, Lyn started lecturing about how other people might drink too much and that we needed to be off the streets by dark.  We explained that by staying at the hotel for a night, we didn't need to worry about drunk drivers.  We just didn't explain that we would also be ordering a drink or two for ourselves.

Anytime the wedding is brought up, she'll go into her Temperance lecture and talk about the ills of alcohol, mostly drunk driving.  She'll go into this lecture when the concept of party planning involves alcohol as well.  You would almost think that she was a member of the Women's Christian Temperance   Union from the late 1800s.  I'm just thankful that she's not as aggressive in her stance as the legendary Carrie Nation.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fixated on a Topic

Mom sent me the following update after our conversation.  I am sharing it because it is an interesting illustration of the inner workings of Lyn's mind.

"After we hung up she wanted to know if I still had the wedding invitation (of a dear family friend).  Of course.  It is in the calendar and so I handed it to her.  Had you seen her looking at it you would swear that she was actually reading it.  

She looked at it for about 2 minutes, never blinked and turned it over.  "Strange.  There isn't anything on the back."  I explained that everyone likes something a little different and this one was lovely and unique.  "Now, is it at that Church we drove by last week?"  I said it was since I wanted her to see it and know how easy it is to get to.   I could see her mind turning things over and knew where the conversation would go.  I had to stop that quickly. 

Let me back up a bit.  Several weeks ago, in this Church, during Mass there was a horrible event.  A mentally ill man stabbed several people because his voices told him the choir director was evil.  Thank goodness there were off duty police and firemen there.  He was subdued by them as well as other parishioners.  Everyone survived and this man is in medical custody.  When it was on the news, I immediately knew this was where we would be going for the wedding.  I made a great effort not to say anything about us going to this Church and would try to distract her during the story or even change channels.  Now, several months have passed, the Church has been re-dedicated by the Archbishop and life goes on.  

Out of the blue, as we drove by the Church a few days ago, she said "That is where that man hurt people."  Our neighbor was with us and didn't know what Lyn was talking about.  I said "Yes, but he's in custody and everyone is ok."  "Did they get things cleaned up?"  I assured her it was perfect again.  Lots of people attend there and that I was anxious to go to the wedding.  I began talking about how pretty weddings are, how special the bride is to us and how much we'll enjoy it because you all will be here as well.  I tried to talk about how we were taking the kids to dinner that evening since we aren't going to the reception.  She began her Temperance lecture and our poor neighbor is sitting here trying to figure it all out.

But of course, your sister kept coming back to the stabbing.  I had to change my tone of voice, become stern, and tell her we weren't discussing that since it's over and done and everything is ok.  I LOVE my rear-view mirror!  I got The Look.  I'm surprised the mirror hasn't broken by now.  She was sullen all the way home.  Fortunately, as we came into the house Nikka was standing, wagging her tail and so happy to see Lynn.  Her mood changed, I emailed our neighbor with an explanation of it all and took an aspirin for my headache.

The obsession of any subject is what wears me out the most."

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Boy on the Bus

Yesterday, when we were having our regular Skype conversation, Lyn interjected to tell us about the boy on the bus.  We listened and tried to cover our surprise when we realized what she was conveying. I'll paraphrase to cut out the stumbles and restarts.

"Do you remember when I used to ride the bus and there was a boy who got on the bus and started having problems?"

I could tell that Mom and I were both thinking of when she rode the city bus to go from home to Wendy's for work in the 1990s.  We were scanning our own memories of that decade to recall if there was any incident on the city bus in which a male passenger had some sort of problem.  Lyn finally gave us the next clue.

"He died."

Mom's jaw dropped and I looked confused.  It clicked for Mom and she remembered what Lyn was recalling.  I'm glad Mom was in the conversation to make the connection and provide details, including the boy's name.

Lyn was remembering a class mate of hers from her first year of middle school.  It was 1982 and the boy died as a result of his congenital heart condition.  He and Lyn rode the same bus to school each day.  I don't believe she witnessed his death, but she remembered the events that preceded it.

Is that where her brain is today?  Is she back in 6th grade?  What synapse firing triggered that memory to surface?  If she's at that point in her life, I'm going to have to rely more on Mom to fill in details because they happened before I began to be aware of much beyond myself.

Welcome to Lyn's deep past.  No telling what we will find here.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


The Fourth of July is is not an easy day for Lyn nor are the days surrounding the holiday.

Lyn hates hearing the fireworks shooting into the air around their home.  The booms and whistles hurt her ears.  Even thunder hurts her ears and it has for as long as any of us can remember.  The sounds come at irregular intervals and she cannot anticipate when the next boom will occur.  This just increases her tension and anxiety.  Fold in the gun shots which are also common in the area and she's a jittery mess.

Even if she wants to go to bed at her normal 5:30 to 6:30 time, she' won't because fireworks will wake her up.  So, it is a long, agitated night.

Lyn will stay up, huddled on the couch with Mom and Nikka until the majority of the fireworks are over and she can finally collapse into bed.  She'll be a bear tomorrow, a bit louder and more belligerent than usual.  Ah well... nothing new or unexpected.  Just another night to help her get through.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I've been Challenged

Lyn is so excited that we will visit this summer that she says so with each phone call or Skype conversation.  During a recent call, she invited us to go bowling with her.  We accepted.  She promptly changed it to a challenge, claiming that she's going to win.

She's delighting in the anticipation of beating me, my husband and kids at bowling.  "I can get three strikes!  You need the bumpers!" gets thrown out like she's a professional issuing smack talk.  I laugh and tell her I'll gladly use bumpers and not be ashamed of my lack of bowling prowess.

Mom will book a time for us at the alley.  We'll give it our best but know that Lyn will be the winner.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mobile Dentistry

One of the challenges care givers face is properly identifying and caring for the patient's specific medical needs.  Imagine being an untrained carer who is caring for your relative who has Alzheimer's.  The Alzheimer's may make it difficult for your relative to express discomfort due to illness or even a cavity in a tooth.  The Alzheimer's also impacts the individual's mobility.  As a result, maintenance care such as teeth cleaning becomes increasingly difficult if not impossible.

In Albuquerque, a dental hygienist realized many of her long-time customers were no longer visiting the practice.  As a result, she established a nonprofit, mobile dental clinic which brings the dental care to the elderly and disabled patients who are no longer able to come into the office to receive care.  Through the nonprofit, they are currently able bring care directly to about 200 patients at this time.  

This service is an exceptional idea which is apparently the first in the nation.  It reminds me of the scene from the 2005 animated movie Robots in which the character Bigweld says "See a need, fill a need."

Monday, July 1, 2013

Of Wine Bottles and Pennies

Over the weekend, Mom and Lyn went out to dinner with their lovely neighbor.  During dinner, Lyn said "If I had a wine bottle."  That was it.  Nothing more.  She must have felt her thought was complete.  Alzheimer's leads to interesting conversations like this.

Mom and the lovely neighbor gasp as Lyn just lets that fragment hang.

"I have a penny and if I had a wine bottle..."  she expanded after a bit.  Mom hates the mid-sentence stop and tries to prompt more out of her.  In this instance, she asked why Lyn needed a wine bottle.

"Well, I have pennies."  she says leaving Mom to fill in the blanks.  Mom asked if she would use it for a bank.  "Yes!  Of course!"  Now we're getting somewhere.

"You know all the bottles you have at home?  I could use one."  Mom pointed out that they were unopened and full of wine.  "Yes, but when the kids come and my sister empties them, I could use one."

Apparently, I have a reputation to live up to and a wine tasting to oversee while there in August.  I'll happily do that, but I'm going to send Lyn a milk bottle that I have because the opening of a wine bottle is actually too small to allow a penny through.

Testing Lyn's theory on wine bottles and pennies.