Grandma by Jessica Shepherd: A Book Review


Grandma book

Recently I discovered a children’s book, Grandma, that tells a story, from a child’s point of view, about a much-loved grandmother who develops dementia. As an educator, I’ve often thought about the need for books that help children understand the disease while illustrating how to continue to love and support a family member who experiences dramatic memory changes. Only now, years after my family lost my husband’s mother to this terrible brain disease, are children’s books that address dementia beginning to appear.

Grandma, an easy-to-read picture book written and illustrated by Jessica Shepherd, fits the bill. Young Oscar shares his thoughts about his grandmother, describing the fun they have, the fond ways they interact, and the changes that have come about since she “started forgetting a lot of things.” He describes how she lives in a new community, with caregivers, and tells about his visits.

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Google Goes Against Aging and Disease

Google wants to commit considerable resources and use them to fight against disease and aging.  Check out other blog posts on Google at the end of this post.

Larry PageThe mammoth digital company has already revolutionized our lives in countless ways, giving us access to the world of information, news, and communication. Ceding more and more of our personal information to companies like Google that use it for various commercial purposes has also changed our lives, giving us less privacy and less control of what others can know, or at least intuit, about our lives. While Google is a search company for most of us, its real focus can be summed up in four words — advertising and information collecting.

But aging?

In a Bloomberg News article chief executive officer Larry Page explained how Google is setting up a new company, Calico (California Life Company) to address disease and aging issues. The goal is to identify strategies that can improve and save lives. Page himself experiences several medical conditions that restrict his life in various ways.

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IADLs: Juggling Instrumental Activities of Daily Living in Middle Age

I’ve had some new insights about the instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), the activities that we do each day that allow us to maintain an independent life. These tasks include things like driving, balancing a checkbook, cooking, and using the computer. From my perspective, after working with a parent who was ill with stroke-induced dementia, I’d also add exercising.Activities of Daily Living

In 2009, when my husband’s mother was quite ill, I wrote a post called ADLs and IADLs: What’s the Difference?  I wrote this post because I had not heard of these two types of activities — measures of a person’s independence. At the time, as I observed my mother-in-law’s decline, I associated them with aging — and aging only.

Now I know a bit more, and I realize that any of us can lose, temporarily, our capacity for IADLs — the ability to perform those all-important tasks of independent daily living.

I’ve written about the my retina problems over the past two years. What has surprised me at various points — unexpectedly — is the loss of my ability to perform many of the IADLs.  At times, due to various treatments, I’ve been unable to use a computer, drive, exercise, or even cook efficiently, and I’ve not been at all happy about loosing my cherished independence. OK, at times I’ve been resentful. On another level, however, my experience offers me a bit more perspective on the adult child-aging parent relationship.       Continue reading

A Geriatrician’s Guide to Aging

One of our University of Chicago alumni publications — a pamphlet aimed toward older boomer alums — featured an interesting article, A Geriatrician’s Guide to Healthy Aging.

Penned by William Dale, M.D., Ph.D., the University of Chicago Chief of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, the short piece offers general aging advice in four categories:

  1. Staying active
  2. Maintaining relationships
  3. Keeping our personal health records
  4. Finding a doctor who is comfortable treating older patients

Dr. Dale is also the author of My Father’s Life and Death from Cancer, a description of his experiences during the last months of his father’s life. This article appeared in a 2011 edition of Medicine on the Midway, another Chicago alumni publication.

 

Here’s to the Health of Remembering — Even After Forgetting

If you find yourself forgetting things (and taking more time to remember them than you want), read Dr. Bill Thomas’ post, Tip of the Tongue, over at his Changing Aging blog. He writes about the brain and presents a broad range of research findings that address memory, forgetting, remembering, age, and ageism. As we grow older and despite forgetting, Dr. Bill emphasizes, most of the information is still in our brain as we move toward elderhood, though we are a bit less efficient at retrieving it quickly.

Best Quote from this Changing Aging Blog Post

It turns out that younger brains are good at quickly recalling bits of information (like a name or where you put your car keys) because they have a relatively straightforward filing system. Older people, by dint of long experience, “store” memories within a more diffuse network of brain systems.

brainAt least once a day I have a tip-of-the-tongue experience, and almost always, the thought that I was trying so hard to remember pops into my head sometime later in the day. My parents, age 89 and 85, have the same experience. I do not worry about it, and I encourage them not to worry too much about it, because we almost always remember the information in a relatively short time (or we know where to go to find it).

I stopped worrying about forgetting after I attended a parents’ weekend lecture some years ago at Brown University — in a large lecture hall, standing room only. The lecturer, a professor and brain researcher whose class my daughter was taking (and whose name I cannot remember just now), shared some interesting and reassuring facts using a metaphor of old-fashioned library card catalog.

Important Lecture Points With Some of My Editorial Notes          Continue reading

Eleanor Roosevelt Understood Aging

Tony Fischer Photography via Flickr - Creative Commons license

Tony Fischer Photography via Flickr – Creative Commons license

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.

                                                 — Eleanor Roosevelt

beau·ti·ful

byo͞otəfəl/

Adjective

  1. Pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically.
  2. Of a very high standard; excellent.