Tuesday’s Caregiving Tip: Laminated Photo Cards

Whiteboards are a good tool we use to help Mom remember names.

Eventually, with very few exceptions, all those afflicted with Alzheimer’s lose the ability to remember names. In the beginning stages, it’s an occasional inability to remember the name of a friend. Somewhere in the middle stages of this mind crippling disease, my mother began having more trouble with names. I noticed names scribbled in notebooks, on church bulletins, on 3″ x 5″ notecards, and backs of envelopes. It was her tool for hiding the fact that she was beginning to forget the names of her close friends.

Momma belonged to a group of ladies from her church who called themselves “The Lunch Bunch.” Each lady friend took turns choosing the destination for their culinary adventures. It was a sad day when Mom decided she could no longer meet up with her friends. She told me it was because the lunch venues were so far away. In retrospect, the unspoken truth was Momma was embarrassed she could no longer navigate driving to unfamiliar places. Even sadder and more difficult to admit, remembering the names of her closest friends was becoming impossible.

Our church family has become Mom’s surrogate church family now that she lives with us. My mother enjoys visits from her new friends, but is nervous about not knowing their names. To ease her transition toward knowing the names of these new friends, I borrowed an idea from a friend I’ve never met who lives in Yorkshire, England. A fellow caregiver to her own mother with mixed dementia, Heather and I “met” on Creative Carer, Heather’s Facebook page dedicated to inspiring and giving ideas to caregivers for those living with dementia. Our mothers seem to be travelling parallel paths in the progression of their individual journeys in the uncertain world of dementia. Heather is amazingly creative in her approach to caregiving, capitalizing upon her mother’s lifelong passion for all things artsy and crafty (you’ll also find many creative art therapy ideas on Heather’s blog here). As her mother’s memory began to fade, Heather created some laminated pages for her mum, depicting life events, useful information, and snippets of joyful events that had happened in her lifetime.

The laminated cards are double-sided and fit perfectly in her purse.

With Heather’s brilliant idea as seed thought, I made some little laminated photo cards mom could keep in her purse. Each card has a photo of friends and family who come to visit, with names written on the card and perhaps a little reminder as to how mom knows that individual or family. I love seeing Mom discover these cards in her purse. It’s a perfect sundowning activity for her, as she loves to go through the contents of her purse during her late-night purse rummages.

Whenever a new friend comes for a visit, I take a picture of them with my mom, then create a card for her before their next visit. About an hour or so before a guest’s next visit, I take that card out of her purse and show it to her. She really appreciates having the card as a reference.

Next project on the horizon: create a few cards featuring her childhood, family, nursing school and wedding. Memories from her early years are still relatively intact; these cards may help Mom tell (and retell) her stories to visiting family and friends willing to sit with her for a moment and listen.

Tuesday’s Caregiver Tip: Busy Mind

Sleeping through the night is the goal of every caregiver of a loved one with Alzheimer’s. To increase the chances that my mother will sleep at night (and that I will too), one of my challenges as a caregiver is to keep her awake and occupied during “normal” waking hours.

Let me share a few of the things which I have found helpful in my caregiving journey.

Coloring – I have written briefly about the joy of coloring in the post “Tuesday’s Tip: Adult Coloring Books,”but would like to elaborate a bit. At first introduction to coloring, Momma didn’t want a thing to do with it. We bought a few “adult coloring books” and a set of colored pencils and hoped she would enjoy spending a little time coloring and less time sleeping. We had a paid caregiver who came on Friday nights and another who came on Sunday mornings. Each of these ladies enjoyed coloring, so they would get out their own coloring stuff and color, and soon Momma took interest and would join them. She’s actually quite good at it.

Handmade coloring cards Momma receives each week from her friend (and ours) Suzy. Each card has a special Bible verse printed within. These special cards are treasured and carried around at all times in Momma’s purse.
Thornton’s Art Supply Premier Premium 150-Piece Artist Pencil Colored Pencil Drawing Sketching Set with Zippered Black Canvas Pencil Case

We soon bought her oodles of coloring books and this amazing colored pencil set. She would spend hours coloring, and even enjoyed sorting the colors in the case to her liking.

As her Alzheimer’s has progressed, her desire to color has diminished somewhat. She grows a bit frustrated by the super-detailed coloring pages she enjoyed at first, so we now purchase coloring books with bigger images and a little less detail. She has also gravitated over time to choosing just greens and yellows, so we keep her colored pencil case supplied with plenty of shades of green and yellow.

Puzzles – I’ve written about how much puzzles have been a blessing in our caregiving experience, first writing about it in a pre-blogging Facebook note titled, “Puzzled.” As with any other creative activity, if I ask Mom if she wants to do a puzzle, she’ll usually say an emphatic “No!” But, if I just sit down near her and start working on one, she’ll join the fun and will soon be pushing my hands away so she can work on it herself.

The church reminds her of the one where she was married in Anmoore, WV. Working this favorite 100-piece puzzle evokes memories and stories of her own wedding day. We put this one together several times a week – each time to her as if it were the first.

Not all puzzles are created equal when it comes to being friendly for those with cognitive or memory disorders, arthritic hands, or poor eye-sight. I am pretty impressed with puzzles by Springbok. Their puzzles are cheerfully bright and colorful and aren’t baby-ish. Puzzle pieces are larger and thicker than most puzzles, making it easier for elderly, shaky hands to handle.

My daughter captured this photo of her beloved grandma being too busy working a puzle to even put her sandwich down between bites.

Bible and Devotional Reading – Momma is a woman of faith who loves the Lord Jesus with all of her heart. It warms my heart to hear her talking with Him in prayer throughout the day and the night. Several of her well-marked Bibles will attest to the fact that she was a faithful student of the Word of God. Sadly, Alzheimer’s makes reading for understanding very difficult and Momma no longer reads her Bible like she used to do so faithfully. How thankful I am to know that even when she can no longer read, the Word of God stored up and treasured in her heart will still speak to her and bring her comfort.

I am thankful Mom can still read. On good days, she enjoys paging through one of her old study Bibles and re-reading notes she has written in the margins. and verses she has marked.

Mom was always a voracious reader, but can now only read small bits with understanding, and she may read and re-read the same page for an hour. Devotional books are perfect, as each daily devotional is only a page or two in length, succinct in thought, and features just one or two verses from God’s Word. I make sure she has several devotional books to choose from whenever she feels like reading a bit.

Fellow Caregivers, let’s hear your ideas too! EnCOURAGE one another daily!

 

Downsizing with Dementia

I’ve been in the process of a little ‘downsizing’ at my house. Fueled by the experience of having moved my mother out of a home she lived in for 52 years, I’ve been steadily going through closets, drawers, cupboards, the garage and basement…anywhere the seldom used ‘stuff’ I’ve accumulated through the years might be lurking.
It made me think about this little Facebook note I wrote –unbelievably, almost two years ago. We’re now a few chapters further into Momma’s story of her life with Alzheimer’s, with her now residing with us in our home so we can care for her full-time.
I am re-sharing this as a reminder to myself of how God has been present at every juncture of this journey. It is also my heartfelt desire to bring encouragement and hope to someone else on a similar journey in life.

Continue reading “Downsizing with Dementia”

Wednesday’s Proverb – Friends are not Facebook Visitors — Know Your Flocks & Herds

A godly perspective on friends and wealth (written by my friend and husband, Wayne).

Friends are not Facebook Visitors Proverbs 19:4 (ESV) “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.” I have a friend that predates Facebook. He is not just a visitor to my FB page. In fact, he cannot even use a phone anymore due to his current limitations. However, when […]

via Wednesday’s Proverb – Friends are not Facebook Visitors — Know Your Flocks & Herds

Six on Saturday: Muddy Fall Garden Cleanup Continues

It’s November already and my garden “to-do list” has included the following tasks on it for what seems like forever:

    Plant daylilies
    Divide/thin daffodils
    Cut back peonies
    Cut back hosta plants
    Plant tulip and daffodil bulbs

I’m making progress as I traipse around in my muddy flowerbeds. But, as hard as I’ve tried, I just can’t seem to get those items crossed off my list. It has been such a wet fall! This is what gardening looked like this week.

Gardening is a muddy mess.
Cut back an overgrown daylily and uncovered this hidden little bright spot of stonecrop.
Iris ‘Immortality’ just might unfurl a few more fragrant blossoms…and you just might be able to catch a glimpse of a few volunteer snapdragons still holding their own  too.
A wee bit of phlox still strutting its stuff.

We have a locust tree with a nasty habit of dropping messy seed pods for several weeks out of the year. We pay our grandsons to pick up ‘tree poop’ (named for its shape…and because little boys relish gross names). We give the boys 5-gallon pails and pay a goodly sum for each filled pail. As I type, the tree continues to drop seed pods on the ground, thus ensuring these boys a college education over time.

The two youngest grandsons recently spent the night. The aforementioned job is so much more fun under the cover of darkness when glow sticks and flashlights are involved.

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Henry
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George

I’m a little weary for wear today, having been up quite a bit last night taking care of my Momma. But I know that the fresh air does me good, so I spent a little more time cleaning out flowerbeds this morning. Making progress, but what a muddy mess. More rain is in the forecast…and cold too. I know what that means.

The snow will soon fly and soon blanket the flowerbeds in the sleep of winter. What doesn’t get done now will wait until spring when we will start the whole beautiful process once again.


There you have it – my Six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener and friend I’ve never met.  Since joining up with The Propogator and other “sixers” all over the world, I learn something new every week from the participating gardeners…and get to enjoy glimpses of their gardens too. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in. It’s hard to imagine there will be anything much to photograph in the coming weeks, but I’m up for the challenge. 

How about you? Do you have a favorite garden cleanup method or tool? I’d sure love it if you’d leave your favorite tip in the comments below.

 

Tuesday’s Caregiver Tip: Busy Hands

One of the biggest challenges of every caregiver is keeping their loved one occupied, feeling productive and useful. I would like to share three things we have discovered my mother enjoys.

Mom’s knees aren’t real stable, so standing for any length of time is difficult. Though I could do the job faster myself, it helps her feel productive if I allow her to dry dishes for us. We set out a towel at the kitchen table, then put the dish rack on top. She has fun sorting, matching and stacking the dishes and flatware as she dries. Mom is very thorough – even drying the dish drainer when she is finished.

Drying Dishes

Someday I would love to make a quilt. My Pinterest board, Quilty Crafty Ideas,  attests to the fact that I’m particularly drawn to scrappy-looking quilts. One day I lugged my sewing machine upstairs from my basement sewing room to the kitchen table so I could keep an eye on Momma and enjoy sewing for a few hours. As I sewed scrappy squares together in pairs for a future project, I discovered quite by accident that my mom enjoyed playing with my fabric squares. I gave her a small pair of scissors and let her snip the threads which connected the pairs. She was happy and content for the entire afternoon.

Sorting fabric squares for quilting

I have a nice little button collection. My grandchildren love to have me dump them out on the living room floor and we can while away an hour or more playing sorting games and choosing favorites. It dawned on me that mom might also enjoy this tactile sensory activity too. I dumped them on a big tea-towel on the kitchen table and mom spent about 3 hours playing with them. I gave her a bunch of little dishes and she sorted them into color families. Sometimes she would look for buttons she particularly liked and then line them up all in a row. Occasionally she would see one that brought back a memory, such as the black buttons that she thought used to be on one of her coats. Button sorting has become a regular activity.

Sorting Buttons

I’d love to read about your activity ideas too. Please do share your favorite activity in the comment section below.

Caregivers, be encouraged to try something new and keep pressing on!