Saturday, July 12, 2008

In Memorium

Some months ago, after years of slow, agonizing decline into the opaque fog of dementia, my mother died. Mercifully, she slipped away gently one evening and was buried shortly afterward next to my Dad who had been waiting patiently for their reunion for 16 years.

Oddly, Mom died the evening before Thanksgiving, while Dad passed a day before Christmas eve. His birthday was November 28th and we always celebrated it on Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving through New Years Holiday Season will always be bittersweet from now on.

Having been through so many mini-deaths during Mom’s long decline into dementia, I sort of expected the actual event to be easier than it was when Dad suddenly died of a massive coronary event in a Florida Sears store. It wasn’t. It was like being hit in the head by a 2x4. A clergyman told me, wisely, that whenever a mother dies it’s the wrong time. You’re never ready. He was so right!

When I got “the call” I’d been expecting for years (each time one of her medium sized mini-strokes knocked her down to a new low), I was stunned. Strange how poorly human beings are able to deal with the reality and finality of death. This wasn’t just another false alarm. This was it!

Still, as they say, for Mom it was a blessing (and probably for me too, although I don’t feel that way yet). Her life quality was so low for so long that I can only believe in the goodness of her being out of pain, discomfort, total dependence, confusion, etc. For me, though, I’m still at the stage of realizing that I’ll never see her again—and that I’ve become an adult orphan.

Humor is often the best way to deal with sadness. So, a friend told me that as an only child, caregiving Mom for 16 years was my job. Not only have I lost my mother, he said, but I’ve also lost my job.

It’s true and I’m mourning them both.

Bob Tell

Friday, July 11, 2008

Signs of a decline in memory function

It's not always easy to tell when a loved one is experiencing the onset of dementia. Here are some significant signs that are provided below as a courtesy from their author, Jean Bandos, MSN, RN, GCNS-BC Research Director at "My Health Care Manager," a national company that helps seniors and their families manage the complexities of older adult life.

*Forgetfulness - not just forgetting names or appointments, but frequently forgetting doctor’s appointments, important anniversaries, birthdays and other special dates that would have never been forgotten in the past.

*Forgetting to the point that it causes confusion and interruption with daily activities.

*Forgetting to turn off the stove – we have all left a burner on accidentally, but if this is a frequent event or if the older adult does not remember cooking at all, then it is no longer a “normal” part of aging.

*Everyone experiences difficulties finding the right words, especially in stressful situations. It’s a bigger issue when an older adult cannot remember simple words and substitutes his or her own words making it difficult to follow what they are saying.

*Misplacing items is common for everybody, but it becomes a “memory problem” if the keys are found in the freezer or the ice tray is in the dryer.

*Finances – there is a problem if a senior has always kept an accurate checkbook in the past and now it never balances.

*Impaired judgment, such as dressing appropriately. This does not mean the senior is mixing plaids and strips, or purples and reds, but is caught wearing a bathrobe to the shopping mall or putting on several shirts instead of one.

Bob Tell

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


The following information is borrowed (with her permission) from Jean Bandos, MSN, RN, GCNS-BC Research Director at "My Health Care Manager." Jean is an experienced Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist with a vast expertise in care management of the older adult.

"My Health Care Manager" is a national company that helps seniors and their families manage the complexities of older adult life. They have a website and a free 800 number that you can call to have any of your caregiving questions answered. The number is 1-800-499-8020.


Forgetfulness and minor memory problems are a normal part of aging. As we age, memory lapses like not remembering a name or taking more time to figure out directions to a new destination are normal. However, when these memory lapses become extreme and continuous, some action needs to be taken.

Unfortunately, there aren’t clear cut signs or determinants that an action is related to serious memory loss or if it’s common for a senior. An indicator that a behavior is normal includes minor occurrences, such as an older adult getting lost driving in a new part of town or having one fender bender. But, when the older adult can’t find his or her way home from the local grocery store or has several “I can’t remember how that happened” dents in their car, that is likely a sign of a major problem that needs to be addressed.

Dementia, or memory decline, is caused by a problem within the brain that makes it hard for a person to remember, learn and communicate. As the dementia progresses the individual may display disruptive behavior and other side effects. It’s estimated that as many as one-third of adults will experience a gradual decline in cognitive function during their lifetime. It’s important to seek medical attention right away if noticing major indications of memory decline."

I hope to be able to share more tips from Jean Bandos in future posts. Stay tuned.

Bob Tell