Sep 21, 2011

Today is World Alzheimer’s Day, It is also My Mom’s 89th birthday

What I do know is that she is much more active and involved on a daily basis.

By Cheryl Appel Rosenfeld

Wednesday is World Alzheimer’s Day. It’s also my mom’s 89th birthday.

On Sunday, we brought a sheet cake covered in purple flowers to mom's Alzheimer’s Care home The cake was complete with candles, we had party hats and grandchildren, all to celebrate the occasion.

My mom, known in our family as Nanny Polly, wasn’t sure what that occasion was, but she enjoyed singing, blowing out the candles and, of course, eating cake.

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It was a bittersweet afternoon, knowing that while she no longer understands what a birthday is, much less that it was hers, she was able to smile and enjoy the simple pleasures of her family and a sugary dessert.

Nanny Polly, lived with my family for 14 years. For the last six years, Alzheimer’s lived with us, too. Watching, and living with, her decline has been difficult to say the least. When we moved her into Hearthstone Alzheimer’s Care in February, it was with both guilt and relief. She would be safer, but would separation from her family cause a faster decline?

The results have been mixed. While her disease has progressed, there is no way to know if the rate would be any different had she remained in our home attending Alzheimer’s adult day care.

What I do know is that she is much more active and involved on a daily basis. She goes on field trips to restaurants and animal shelters. She does arts and crafts, daily singing and gardening. She has even learned to conduct music. Yes, learned.

The Montessori approach used by Hearthstone, along with its art therapy program, goes a long way toward improving the quality of life of the 28 residents in the home.

So while my mom might not know she is turning 89, we are thankful she has reached this milestone with the help of so many talented professionals.

Cheryl Appel Rosenfeld is editor-in-chief for CenterWatch, a global source of clinical trials information and publications. Previously, Cheryl was Assistant Business Editor/Special Sections Editor at The Boston Globe and Assistant Business Editor at the Boston Herald. She holds a B.A. from Brandeis University and an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She was the primary caregiver for her mother, an Alzheimer’s sufferer, for six years.

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Original content Cheryl Appel Rosenfeld, the Alzheimer's Reading Room