Jan 16, 2014

We Learned to Thrive in a Place I Call Alzheimer's World

Once I found this new place - Alzheimer's World - the venting stopped, and the joy of living returned.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Bob DeMArco, Alzheimer's Reading Room

There can be little doubt that Harvey and Petey (the toy parrots) heightened Dotty's awareness.

However, I don't want to mislead anyone, they did not stop the progression of her Alzheimer's disease.

Did they slow down the progression of dementia? I believe they did.

After interacting with Harvey, Dotty smiled, laughed and sang more often.

She also drove me crazy at times.

The heightened awareness turned her back into a hunter. She was constantly hunting for food.

One time,  I caught Dotty in the kitchen right after lunch scavenging for food.

She was eating a peanut butter bar while trying to get a second one out of the wrapper. The reason she couldn't get it open was because she had two glazed donuts in her hand. She had procured the donuts from the freezer.

Hiding the donuts in the freezer worked for a couple of years until Dotty turned backed into a hunter.

Next, I noticed that Dotty had opened a package of peanut butters cracker and had eaten four of the six crackers.

Right before all of this, Dotty had a half of a turkey breast sandwich, three olives, half an orange, a piece of celery, and one baby carrot. And, the dreaded prune juice (which worked today I might add, and I mean worked).

Before I made it to Alzheimer's World this kind of behavior drove me nuts.

Do you allow behaviors that happen over and over to bend you out of shape?

I did for a very long time while caring for Dotty.

But after my big step into Alzheimer's World, I just shook my head and laughed.

At the time of the episode described above, I put the donuts back in the freezer. Then I said to Dotty, pick peanut butter crackers or peanut bar. She took the bar and I shuffled her out of the kitchen.

For the next three hours Dotty looked like she had been dipped in doo doo.

She was not a happy camper. However, she did not try to run for the cover of her bedroom like she had before we made it to Alzheimer's World together.

Her funk continued until I announced that I would make her one of her favorites -- the beloved hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and green beans.

For years, Dotty would complain about the size of the portions -- meaning they were too small. Finally, I learned how to make the small portions look big by spreading them all over the plate. You figure this stuff out in Alzheimer's World because you focus on the issue instead of complaining, explaining, and venting.

The simple change in the arrangement of the food changed the way Dotty looked at her food. Instead of complaining she would say -- look at all the food. I can't eat all that. Then she scarfed it all down.

We did have one very unusual moment early on a Sunday morning.

Dotty woke up around 6:30 AM. The next thing I know I hear her yelling --

  Bobby, Bobby, lets get the h*** out of here. 

While I was making my way there, I yelled back -- what is wrong Mom.

Dotty continued to yell lets get the h***  out of here. I got there and I asked her,

where are we going?

She said -- home.

Before Alzheimer's world, this would have sent me into a blue funk with a enormous heartache.

Oddly at the time, I laughed and said Mom, we are home -- right Harvey.

Right on cue Harvey chirped -- We are Home Dotty, We are Home Dotty.

Then something happened that I did not expect and had never seen before.

Dotty kinda shook her head and said, there must be something wrong with me.

I asked, what's wrong? She continued shaking her head and said, I don't know but something is not right with me.

Dotty, however,  did not get all disoriented and bent out of shape like she had in the past; and, I didn't start falling into a deep blue funk.

Instead we moved right into our usual morning routine, which included Dotty talking to Harvey. Then all was well.

In order to communicate effectively with a person who is deeply forgetful you must learn to look at the world from their point of view.

Once I started looking at the world from Dotty's perspective all things seemed normal.

Amazingly, I was no longer angry, confused, or bent out of shape.

Instead I looked on in amazement.

I re-learned what I already knew, Dotty was a real character even though she was living with Alzheimer's.

Once I found this new place - Alzheimer's World - the venting stopped, and the joy of living returned.

Frankly, the entire episode startled and amazed me as I thought about it later on. So much so that I actually said to myself -- you've come a long way baby.

To learn more about Harvey read this article

To learn more about Alzheimer's World enter these two keywords 

Alzheimer's World   

into the search box on the right hand side of this page (Search Our Knowledge Base).

To learn more about my mother Dotty and our travels through Alzheimer's World enter the keyword


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Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
Original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room