Motor (Muscle) Memory

You don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, but motor, or muscle, memory is a part of everything we do. You probably open the door or curtain of the shower with the same hand every morning.  You step in the shower with the same foot. You reach for whatever product it is that you use first, and wash and rinse in the same order without stopping to think about it. If you don’t feel well, you have probably also noticed that you may stumble into the shower because you stepped in with the other foot first. You may grab the soap instead of the shampoo. You feel like your game is off.

Throughout the day, your common movements are all done with muscle memory. You might grab your cell phone first and put it into your right pocket. Next you pick up the briefcase with your left hand while grabbing the car keys with the right at the same time. Muscle memory allows us to move through live with a certain fluidity without thinking about each step. There is much info available about muscle memory as it relates to playing musical instruments or exercise routines. Continue reading Motor (Muscle) Memory

Another conversation with Mom: “People stinking up the room”

One morning, my mom awoke very sullen. As the day went on, she continued to be quiet and looked quite angry and annoyed. She asked that we go into a room where we could not be overheard and I knew I was in for another one of these sessions where she just reads me the riot act. And to that effect she did not disappoint.

She told me that whatever kind of boarding house I am running here is my business. (It is no boarding house and there are few visitors because most of my time is spent caring for her. All is calm and quiet.) She said she was up all night with the people I have sublet the house to.  They come out of the wall in the back of her closet at night and there are 30-40 people stinking up the room and she cannot sleep. All night long there is a lady who holds one or two fingers in the air to let them know how many bathrooms are free. They are using not only her bathroom, but a secret bathroom in the same hallway that my husband has been quietly putting in so that no one will know; there is no “secret bathroom” that my husband has been working on. Continue reading Another conversation with Mom: “People stinking up the room”

Tactile Misperception

I am learning on the job, so to speak, while caring for two parents who have different kinds of dementia.

My mom’s case is more complex. She displays what I would call “tactile misperception.” These misperceptions are often alarming to her and she will yell in fear or anger. She often spends hours, if not days and even weeks, stuck on the same one. In some cases they get recycled.

Here are a few examples.

Upon taking out my mom’s hearing aids, she will shout “watch out” as she cups her hands and tells me that they are falling apart and I should catch the pieces. Then she hands me imaginary pieces and asks if I have gotten them. Continue reading Tactile Misperception

Pack your bags! Traveling with seniors

Pack your bags!

Traveling with seniors is much like traveling with young children.  You must pack your car with important items in case of emergency.

Your car will be have quite a number of items but if you break down once or get into an accident you will be so glad that you were prepared!

Update your bag regularly with the most recent medication list and be sure that your snacks are kept up to date. Re-supply the water bottles as needed.

Reinforcing memories & bringing the past alive

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and get creative.

One day, my daughter was asking my mom what kinds of toys she played with in the 1940’s. My mom replied that she did not have many toys at all, but she and her friend spent hours playing with paper dolls of a certain movie star. I found the dolls on eBay and bought them for her. The originals were framed for her room. Before I framed them, I scanned one, printed it out and laminated it, so that she could use it as a bookmark or little memento.

Our world today is so different than the world of someone who grew up during the Great Depression. We are swimming in material items, many of them new and it can be overwhelming.

Find a mixing bowl or decorative item that is a blast from their past. Second hand stores can often be just the place to find just the item that will evoke a happy memory.

If your loved one has been uprooted and lives many miles from where they grew up, a subscription to their local hometown paper could be a source of great delight. Continue reading Reinforcing memories & bringing the past alive

Exercising the mind with games

Finding activities for seniors can be quite the challenge. You may have to try several things before you find success. Be ready to change the activity midstream to try to turn a frustration into a win.

Last week I was decorating cookies with my parents. We iced them and then the decorating ensued. My dad became quickly frustrated because he was quite the artist in his younger day, but he found that his hands now tremble too much to be able to do the decorations. We quickly changed gears. I had him work on just the icing, which is a gross motor skill, and had my mom continue with the detail work, fine motor, which delighted her.

Sometimes the best intentions can result in a major fail if we are not on our toes. Continue reading Exercising the mind with games

Neuropsychological evaluation

Caring for someone who is in a noticeable state of mental or physical decline or change can be quite distressing.

As a caregiver, it is your responsibility to expand your knowledge in many areas that will help you to better understand your loved one and adjust their care to meet their needs.

If there has been an insult to the brain, such as a stroke or if they have a degenerative condition such as Parkinson’s, your doctor may order a neuropsychological evaluation. These tests may take up to four hours to administer and will give you and the physician invaluable information. For example, if a stroke has occurred in the part of the brain that processes spacial relationships, then a decision must be made if that person is still driving. Strokes in other areas may prevent them from reliably administering their own medication or controlling their finances. Continue reading Neuropsychological evaluation

“I won’t hold it against you until morning”

Mom was very restless and argumentative tonight before bed.

She started to leave her room without her walker, a common challenge that greatly increases the risk of falling. I asked her to get her walker.

She replied, “I thought I had two!” As if having two walkers solves the issue of using none at all.

On her way back from the bathroom, after complaining that the toilet seat was too high (it’s a handicap seat) and that her pee splashes on her all the time (she misses a lot), I offered to take off her sweater and put on her pajamas. It’s part of the nightly routine.

Mom struggled to take her sweater off, going slow so as not to stretch it out. While it was over her head, she said, “Where’s my pajamas?”

I was standing next to her with her pajamas.

Continue reading “I won’t hold it against you until morning”

Power of Attorney

Having power of attorney (PoA) for your parent or parents suffering from dementia makes caring for them so much easier.  It allows you to act on their behalf on financial and medical matters.

It is a powerful document and can be abused by some families or become a source of friction. Be informed before you go that route. Getting this document if the parent is not of sound mind may be difficult, so, you may want to plan ahead and obtain a PoA before the onset of mental decline. Thankfully, I got mine before their medical conditions took a turn for the worse.

I often spend hours each day on the phone talking to doctors, ordering prescriptions, straightening out medical bills, talking to Medicare, etc. If I did not have power of attorney, I would have to put my parent on the phone each time and they would have to tell details about themselves first and then give the person permission to talk to me. One day I was on the phone, trying to get a 1099 for my dad to get their taxes completed. The place I was talking to did not have my PoA on file. I put my dad on the phone. He could not remember his birth date, social security number or address that he lived at for over 50 years. I wrote the info down for him and we  were eventually able to complete the mission. Continue reading Power of Attorney


There is so much to say about medication, I’m sure this will be the first of many posts.

The #1 rule is to be fiercely organized.

My mom is on 16 different medications. My dad is on 10. They both have dementia and need everything handed out at the proper time.

I keep all medication hidden in a box in my bedroom closet.  When the packages of medication arrive in the mail, if I don’t immediately hide them, my dad will see his name on the packages and put them into his room. Act fast and stealthily. Include clear instructions with med lists in this box in case of emergency. As the primary care giver you are most likely the only one who knows the system for refilling the pill boxes every other week. In case of emergency, someone else should be able to follow instructions precisely to ensure that no medications are mixed up.

  • Keep a list of medications in a word document on your home computer.
  • Include the patient’s name and date of birth.
  • Alphabetize the list–this makes it easier for the physician to compare when meds are added or subtracted.
  • Include dosage and time of day to be administered.
  • Record the date the list was edited at the bottom of the page.

Continue reading Medication