Nov 20, 2011

Furry Chicken Makes Alzheimer's Patient Laugh and Creates a Lasting Memory

When she saw them she exclaimed loudly, “Look honey, it’s a furry chicken!!!”

By Carole Larkin
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Well, I’ve finally lived long enough in Texas to get my “papers”. It takes 20 years, you know.

Many of those years I’ve gone to the Texas State Fair, probably because it’s conveniently located in Dallas, where I live. The Texas State Fair is over 3 weeks long, covers a huge amount of ground space, has a huge midway with all kinds of rides and games to play, 6 or 7 bands playing in a day’s time, and all kinds of food.

There’s a contest each year featuring unique fried food. This year’s winners were: fried bubble gum (Yuk!) and fried Buffalo Chicken in flapjacks. They’ve had some pretty strange stuff over the years.

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Of course, the animals are there daily. There are days and days of children and adults showing off their prized cows, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, etc.

One time I happened to go on poultry day, and to view the poultry to be judged. There were turkeys and ducks and chickens. All was proceeding normally until I spotted a chicken that looked like it had fur, not feathers. It stopped me in my tracks. It looked like a big white puff ball stuck on top of 2 sticks with 2 little puffballs stuck on the other end of those sticks. I was mesmerized and enchanted. They came in different colors too!

Some had so much “fur” you couldn’t even see their eyes, just the very end of their beaks. I wondered how they could tell the boys from the girls- I couldn’t. Yet they had to have been able to tell which gender others were because they kept showing up year after year. You know what I mean!

I immediately dubbed them Furry Chickens and tried to show up on poultry day every year since I discovered them. Eventually I found out their real breed’s name is Silkies. I like my name for them better though, it’s more descriptive.

Later, after I had brought my mother to Dallas, gotten her diagnosed (Alzheimer’s), and she had settled in nicely at a local assisted living, I would tell her the story of the furry chickens. She wouldn’t believe me, of course, but we’d make up stories about them and laugh and laugh about them. I could always get her out of a fowl (pun intended) mood by telling her the story of the furry chickens.

Then one year, I finally hauled her down to the state fair on poultry day, and showed them to her. It was quite a chore for me to do, but absolutely worth it.

When she saw them she exclaimed loudly, "Look honey, it's a furry chicken!!!" I said “by God it is!!!”, and we started laughing.

Carole and a Furry Chicken
It took awhile for us to finally stop laughing. Mom refused to leave their side; instead she pulled on the arm of every passerby and said “Look, it’s a furry chicken!” They’d start to laugh, causing us to start laughing all over again. Finally, she got tired, and I took her back to her assisted living. As I was going out the front door, I heard her telling all that walked by her about the furry chickens, and laughing with them. What a wonderful moment she had. It’s one of my very best memories of her.

Now, when I go to the fair on poultry day, and I see the furry chickens, I always think of that day with Mom, and I say to myself, “Mom, see, here they are. The furry chickens!” and I laugh and laugh.

Now you can laugh and laugh too. Maybe you’d like to show the picture to your mom (or dad or husband or significant other).

Carole Larkin MA,CMC,CAEd,QDCS,EICS,
is a Geriatric Care Manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. She also trains caregivers in home care companies, assisted livings, memory care communities, and nursing homes in dementia specific techniques for best care of dementia sufferers. ThirdAge Services LLC, is located in Dallas, TX.

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Original content Carole Larkin, the Alzheimer's Reading Room