Apr 30, 2010

A Good Healthy Conversation in the Morning Helps Dotty and Me

We were getting ready to discuss another story when Dotty uttered her most famous words -- I'm hungry. So I gave her some breakfast.

By Bob DeMarco
+Alzheimer's Reading Room

A Good Healthy Conversation in the Morning Helps Dotty and Me

One thing I learned is that a good healthy conversation with Dotty as soon as she wakes up helps improve our day. You might be thinking how do you have a healthy, detailed conversation with some suffering from Alzheimer's disease?

I admit in the past, I did think it was a waste of time. After all, Dotty doesn't react the way a person without Alzheimer's would react. It is less then a perfect dialog. The conversation is often mostly one sided as Dotty looks at me with her little smile and says next to nothing.

Let's face it, in a few minutes Dotty won't be able to remember a single word from the conversation, she won't even remember we had the conversation. I guess you could conclude, what is the use.

Well, I started noticing a while back that the conversation does improve Dotty's attitude and it does get her brain working.

I noticed that when Joanne or Billy are here Dotty starts yaking away as soon as she gets up in the morning. More or less, like in the old days. I also noticed that this improved Dotty's behavior and outlook for the day.

Soon, I put one and one together and realized I should try to create the same start to the day. The same start to the day that we had when Joanne or Billy were here.

I'm glad I did.

I will admit on some days I am busy with the blog, or on the phone, and I don't really get into the conversation with Dotty. I learned on those days that Dotty often acts like she is not there, "less there".

Key word here -- learned.

Today is a good example. I get Dotty to the kitchen table and put the paper in front of her. Lo and behold she asks, what do you think of Charlie Crist? Charlie is our republican governor here in Florida. He wants to run for the United States Senate. The news is he has decided to leave the republican party and run as an independent. Long story.

I segway out of that discussion and go into a more interesting discussion that tells Dotty about my opinion of Charlie Crist. Recently, the state legislature passed a bill that would change the way teachers get paid in Florida. Instead of the old fashioned way, a teacher would get paid based on the performance of their students. If your students did very well you get paid more. If the students do less well you get paid less. So yes, as a teacher you would end up making a lot less money then you did last year if you don't get the performance from the students.

After dilly dallying around trying to figure out what was best for him, Charlie Crist vetoed the legislation. Shame on Charlie and shame on the teachers. The drop out rate is over 50 percent down here and the quality of a high school education puts Florida solidly in the bottom of the barrel. Something needs to be done to fix this problem.

Some of you know I am a big fan of education. In a long ago career, I taught college students at the University of Georgia. Great fun, intellectually stimulating.

I know how a good education can change your life. The biggest difference in my life was the high school education I received. I was fortunate because I attended an excellent private boys school outside Philadelphia -- La Salle College High School. The school was rigorous in reading, writing and math. They really busted your chops back in those days.

When I went to college I was way ahead of most students. Grad school same story. Business same story. The common denominator was the high school education I received. The most important four years of my life.

I might amend that last sentence after my current career in Alzheimer's caregiving comes to an end.

So there we are, Dotty and me. Having a nice conversation about Charlie Crist. Based on the look on her face she seemed engaged. Good thing. She had a happy, smiling look on her face -- wonderful. I should note here, look out Charlie I actually have two votes in every election.

Dotty and I then went to the next story on the front page. Here we go again, Walmart wants to build a monster 24 hour a day store in Delray Beach. As many of you already know, we already have an almost monster Walmart in Delray. I love the monster store better but you have to go to Boynton Beach to find one.

I tell Dotty the history of Walmart. From the original 25 year old Walmart to the current new and improved almost monster store.

I explain to Dotty that the citizens around the location of the new proposed monster store don't want it. Same old story.

I am tempted to write about my love of Walmart and my latest dream. I think I'll save that for next time.

I had fun writing this article. But not nearly as much fun as I had having a good healthy conversation with Dotty this morning. We were getting ready to discuss another story when Dotty uttered her most famous words -- I'm hungry. So I gave her some breakfast.

Well guess what? Right now she is not only hungry, she's starving. Gotta go.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder and Editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR).
Bob is a recognized influencer, speaker, and expert in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community Worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 4,000 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room