My father, a retired minister, and my mother are leading a short Bible study once a week at Woodland Park, Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community’s (VMRC), newly opened Green House Homes. The weekly activity is engaging and fun for mom and dad, and they enjoy sharing scripture as well as music with the group members. Most of the participants who choose to attend are physically fragile and some also have significant memory loss.
Each Thursday my parents bring a lesson, as much as possible, from the weekly lectionary – the three-year cycle of Bible readings that corresponds with the events of the Christian church liturgical year. Many ministers base their Sunday sermons on these readings, and many churches schedule their Bible study groups to help members learn more about the lectionary passages prior to the Sunday service when the passages are read during worship.
At the Woodland Park Bible study sessions my parents just about always read a Psalm. Dad chooses the next reading based on how well-known and familiar it is, because the participants are increasingly engaged when they recognize the story, and some may even share a thought or two after hearing the passage read aloud. With this group familiarity with a passage is more important than any one lectionary passage.
Music and hymn singing become more central each time my parents lead a session, since just about every member of the group seems to automatically remember words to many of the old-time favorite hymns. Read more »
Below is a three-paragraph excerpt from an April 12, 2013 report by Adam Moll, a compelling look at the aging prison population and the increasing amounts of geriatric medical care that must be provided to inmates.
Dementia is not a condition associated with incarceration, yet a demographic shift is challenging the very nature of prisons. In England and Wales, male offenders aged 50 or above are the fastest growing group in prison, rising by 74% in the past decade to close to 10,000, 11% of the total prison population. The over-60s population has increased eight-fold since 1990.
This transformation, primarily driven by decades of punitive sentencing policy from politicians falling over each other to appear “tough on crime”, is exacerbated by an accelerated ageing process experienced by many offenders, a combination of the health risks associated with criminal lifestyles and the psychological strains of prison life.
Most Interesting Quote
The United States, where legislation has been particularly draconian, is facing the genuine prospect of its prisons becoming the biggest single providers of geriatric care in the next thirty years.
Those of us who have lived with dementia or Alzheimer’s in our families know about the struggle. But rarely does an opportunity come along to read about what’s happening to memory from the perspective of the person who is ill and gradually becoming sicker.
Facing a Fading Future: Retired Doctor Chronicles His Struggles With Alzheimer’s appeared in the March 31, 2013 Washington Post, and it offers the perspective of the patient who also happens to be a trained physician.
Take some time to read this compelling article, by Theresa Vargas, about Dr. David Hilfiker who has Alzheimer’s and is blogging about it. It’s heartbreaking and amazing at the same time, and providing many of us with the first real look at the disease, chronicled from a patient’s point of view.
A Few Quotes from the Article Read more »
Adult children with a parent experiencing memory issues may want to listen to this July 2011 TED Talk, A Map of the Brain, by Allan Jones, the head of the Allen Institute for Brain Research. The lecture explores the brain’s structure, they way different parts function, and current research, and it and includes some amazing images.
I wrote more about the Institute in my March 2012 post, Paul Allen Donates Another $300 Mil to Brain Research. Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft and not a noted philanthropist, was the primary founder and funder of the Allen Institute, and he continues to support its work. Allen’s mother had Alzheimer’s.
The Mission of the Allen Institute for Brain Research
Our mission is to accelerate the understanding of how the human brain works in health and disease. Using a big science approach, we generate useful public resources, drive technological and analytical advances, and discover fundamental brain properties through integration of experiments modeling and theory.
Check Out this Easy-to-Use Guide
from the National Institute on Aging (NIA)
If one of your family members or a friend receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, this book, Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease, offers an enormous amount of information and support. It’s organized well, overs a range of resources, and even uses an easy-to-read typeface.
From the NIA Website
This comprehensive, 104-page handbook offers easy-to-understand information and advice for at-home caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease. It addresses all aspects of care, from bathing and eating to visiting the doctor and getting respite care. And it’s filled with resources.
Examples of the Information Provided in Caring for a Person With Alzheimer’s
- Learn more about caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s with advice on everything from memory issues to holidays to travel to coping strategies
- Get more specifics about the medical facts.
- Learn how to seek and find additional help for you and your family member.
- Find out how to help a caregiver remain healthy and strong.
- Explore a range of safety tips.
- Get information about the progression of the disease and the last states of Alzheimer’s disease.
A few years ago, when my mother-in-law was sinking deeper and deeper into dementia, my husband and I suddenly realized, with some help from professional geriatric counselors, that the devious brain disease had been lurking for some time. Although we had noticed a number of memory issues and behaviors, we continually chalked them up to mundane issues of aging and personality. By the time we realized what was really going on and got serious about supporting his mother, she was well into the fourth stage of dementia, and we had missed many opportunities to offer support.
When I first read Inside the Dementia Epidemic by Martha Stettinius, I could not put it down. Right in front of my eyes, the author described and documented almost every step that her mother (and ours) experienced, first early on and then as it progressed incrementally. I wish that the book had been around for us to read five or six years ago.
Inside the Dementia Epidemic should be required reading for anyone who is beginning to notice changes and to feel concern about an elderly parent. Stettinius writes clearly, though not without emotion, about her caregiving role and her mother’s developing illness, sharing observations, explaining how her mother was changing, noting the effects of caregiving on her family’s life, and documenting the many caregiver support services that she found to be personally helpful. She describes the nuances of aging parental finances, sharing what she learned, pinpointing her mistakes, and highlighting the difficult decisions that she and her husband made.
Take a few minutes to read, Device Tracks Seniors Prone to Wandering, about tracking devices that use GPS sensors to keep track of people who wander and may get lost. This type of device will be useful for families worried about a loved on with memory loss. Writer Anne Tergesen writes for SmartMoney. The product she reviews, Pocket Finder, comes in versions for people, pets, and vehicles.
Now if they could just figure out creative ways to wear these devices, perhaps in clothing or shoes, rather than making people wear them on chains.