The Dementia Connection

Creating Joy & Meaning for the Dementia Patient by Ronda Parsons

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Thoughts on Caregiving After a Summer of Book Signings

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As the summer is drawing to its inevitable close, I can’t help but look back on the wonderful experiences that I have had at various books signings on the east coast of America. I wrote my book so that other caregivers would know that they are not alone, and my feelings were validated time and time again as I met the public at each stop of my tour. Dementia is an equal opportunity disease, capable of bringing friends and family to their knees regardless of their socio-economic status. No, I’m afraid that those joining the caregiving community is growing. Young people have asked my advice for their afflicted grand parent, spouses have told me their concerns as their eyes filled with tears, and friends with worried faces have shared what the caregiving experience is doing to someone they hold dear. And it is through these exchanges I have come to realize that I was meant to write this book. Fate handed me a enormous task and now, more than ever, I know that my experiences were supposed to be shared.

To the woman in South Africa who sent me a heartfelt email about her mother, the daughter who wrote me of her mother’s initial diagnosis, and to the 10 year old girl who volunteers in a memory unit – I say, “Here’s to you, the grace makers.” You are the heroes! You chose to rise above your personal needs and look uncertainty and sadness square in the eye. You are a healer, a mender, a bell ringer calling forth your divinity to be shared with the world. You were selected for a reason. You are the difference maker, the fixer-of-things, and the architect of metamorphosis. You are a spirt-filled vessel scattering seeded blessing through the universe.

And so for all those whose voices that are silenced by this tragic disease, I will speak for them and say, “Thank you for taking on this challenge. May you become soothed by the song of the meadowlark, comforted by the warm streams of afternoon sunshine, find relief as tender as a falling leaf, and catch the peace that sails on a gentle ocean wave. And in the end, may you all the blessing that you have bestowed upon others keep lifting you higher and higher, until the orbiting stars and you merge into one.”


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Book Signing – Saturday, August 15th

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Hello Everyone.

I will be signing copies of my book ‘Creating Joy & Meaning for the Dementia Patient’ tomorrow, Saturday, August 15th in Virginia Beach, VA. I will be at the Barnes & Noble near the Pembroke Mall between 3 – 5pm. I will also be discussing how to remain connected and bring joy into the life of a loved one suffering from dementia. I hope to see you there!

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Accepting a Diagnosis of Dementia

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My mother-in-law’s diagnosis of dementia forever changed the lives of everyone in our family. I remember sitting with my husband in a row of metal chairs along the hallway in the medical facility while she was being examined by a geriatric neurologist. It seemed to take an eternity. Finally the doctor emerged from the scan room and told my husband and me, “She has significant brain shrinkage indicating dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. There is not much we can do at this point. There are medications, but their effectiveness is questionable. Her situation is progressive and will probably worsen over time.”

Neither one of us was surprised. Our concerns had finally been verified. Then two questions immediately came to mind. First, how were we going to provide her with the care she was going to need in the future? And secondly, how were we going to help Nan understand the reality of her diagnosis? It was in these mind-numbing moments that I began my journey into the complicated world of dementia care. Its complexities were unimaginable and I knew its future was unpredictable. And I was afraid; afraid for Nan and afraid for us. The only thing I knew for certain was that Nan’s cognitive skills were diminishing at an alarming rate and she needed help now.

Watching Nan slip down through the stages of dementia has been like witnessing two deaths simultaneously. I know this may sound emotional counterintuitive. Either someone is here or they are not. But this is not the case when someone suffers from dementia. A schism occurs between the mind and the body.

I don’t know when Nan began to separate from the world. I cant put my finger on the time when her disease finally overtook her mind, and I don’t know if it even matters. But I do know that it seems to have happened in the blink of an eye, sometime when I wasn’t looking. Dementia will trick you like that. It distracts you with its initial symptoms that send you scurrying about on endless missions to solve daily problems and search for cures. It sneaks up behind its victims and snatches them while you are busy making sure that they are taking their medicine correctly and eating a balanced diet.

I wish I had a way to spare you the highs and lows of the acceptance process. I wish that I could catapult you past the pain and make you see the happiness that is possible even in the light of all that you are facing.  But I know that is impossible. So instead, through this blog I will give to the gift of the lessons that I have learned and hopefully, in the end, they will make all the difference.

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Surprising Memories for the Dementia Patient

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There is an interesting memory phenomenon that I have witnessed not only with my mother-in-law Nan, but also with other dementia patients. Over time I began to see a correlation between how often I can to see Nan and her tendency to act out in a negative manner. The more often I came to visit, the less likely she was to be anxious or distressed. It took some time for me to notice the pattern and to link these two events together. This is especially interesting since more often than not, she completely forgets my visits before I reach  my care in the parking lot. I am not saying that she remembers the actual details of our time together, but on some deeper level she seems to understand that someone loves and cares for her. It is as if a part of her knows that I have been to see her and this deeper connection seems to sustain her while I am away.

Research shows that Nan is not along in this phenomenon. Experts have witnessed this also. According to research detailed in Rebecca Mead’s article “A Sense of an Ending” in The New Yorker magazine, “endorphins released during a pleasant experience have a salutary effect on the person with dementia even after the experience is forgotten.”

So today I challenge you to that this positive information and run with it. Share you love and compassion abundantly knowing that every small thing you do truly does make a difference.