SELECTIVE MEMORY AND ALZHEIMER’S

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IS THERE A CONNECTION?

slective memory

Like cherry-picking, selective memory only lets us remember what we choose.

July 25, 2014 – I have wondered for many a year is there is a connection between selective memory and Alzheimer’s. Ken has had occasion to have a selective memory and is now in his 11th year of AD.

The first experience with Selective memory was the first year we were married. He was a G.I. Student going for a degree in Engineering. The time: long before there were any signs of Alzheimer’s on either side of our families. I had a great job and we had income from his G.I. Bill of Rights. Furthermore, with just the two of us he took on a part-time job at a local gas station working a few hours after college before hitting the books.

A VERY CLEVER CON ARTIST

One evening he called me from the gas station.

I’ve just been taken by a ‘bunko’ artist,” he said disgusted with himself.

Immediately he ran the ploy by me on the phone. He was embarrassed, frustrated and angry with himself for being so gullible.

I should have known better,” he claimed, chastising himself. “How could I have been so stupid?”

It was an old con job,” he continued, “I should have seen right through it,and now it will cost me $50.00. Some guy came in – sincere as he could be – asking for my boss and calling Fred by name. “He’s not here?” the guy asked with an incredulous tone in his voice. “Fred promised to loan me $50.00,” the con continued. “And he promised he would be here. Did he tell you about our deal?

NOT EVEN GOOD ENOUGH FOR A CRACKER-JACK PRIZE

He did not,” Ken answered ”adding that I just couldn’t see my way clear to give him the money without authorization. but the guy pleaded with me over and over. Then he pulled off his diamond-studded gold watch and diamond ring and handed both to me.” ‘All in good faith,’ he committed. ‘ Take these and I’ll be back tomorrow, pick up my valuables and return the $50.00 – deal?

I had a feeling that I was doing the wrong thing, but he was leaving collateral so I went into the office and pulled out fifty and gave it to him. As he drove away I knew I’d been had.”

When Ken arrived home he was chagrined beyond measure so I didn’t say anything except I did ask to see the collateral. I forced myself to hold my tongue. He already felt terrible. The $50.00 covered our rent at the time. As I looked at the valuables I didn’t understand why Ken could have been fooled by the two pieces of junk. At best they looked like prizes from a Cracker-Jack box.

I feel so foolish,” Ken confessed. “Please don’t tell our friends or family. It’ll be hard enough explaining to Fred.” But he did and Fred was understanding. He did, however, deduct the money from Ken’s paycheck.

GONE AND FORGOTTEN

Absently I tossed the junk jewelry into the desk drawer where it continued to tarnish for several months. Finally, I threw both items in the garbage.

Years later I mentioned the incident to Ken about the gold watch and valuable ring. “Remember when you were taken in that con game and the guy gave you the diamond-studded watch and ring, and you gave him $50.00 from the cash drawer of the service station?” Further conversation caused Ken to get very defensive about being so gullible, and he denied any knowledge of what had happened. “That never happened to me,” he claimed. “It must have been one of your former boy friends. I’m not that stupid.”

At the time I wished that I had saved the worthless evidence to show him. However I am certain he would not have recognized the junk jewelry no matter what I said. Rather than make him angry, which would have had no point, I chose to just forget the whole thing

A PHYSCRITIC EXPLANATION

Remembering the incident and realizing where my husband is in his Alzheimer’s journey today; I read up on Selective Memory. Among the explanations was one that seemed to fit him to a tee. It said that selective memory incidents are often related to people who are over-confident in certain areas. For example,the stock broker who brags about his expanding portfolio, but if he loses on some hot deal he becomes so embarrassed his mind hides the loss and his mistake by selectively removing it from memory. I can see Ken falling into that category very well. He was a very confident man – at times confident without the necessary knowledge on a subject under discussion so he would bluff his way through. Confident that he was too smart to be taken in a con game, so the incident went the way of the $50.00: vanished.

We, as humans and the medical community are so in the dark when it comes to knowing and understanding the brain we have no idea why things happen. There were at lease two more incidents in our marriage when Ken conveniently forgot an event, but none so expensive as the con artist and his junk jewelry. Whether selective memory has anything to do with Alzheimer’s I don’t claim to know. Or, could it be a very early sign that trouble with memory is brewing.

A MESSAGE OF LOVE AND ALZHEIMER’S

MEMORIES OF LONG AGO

care-giving granddaughter and grandfather with alzheimers

Dealing with her Grandfather’s Alzheimer’s has been a challenge for Kristina, but one she has learned to handle well.

July 17, 2014 – Granddaughter Kristina was barely into her teen years when her grandfather began his journey into the mysterious and frightening world of Alzheimer’s. Her memories of him as her fun-loving, teasing grandfather were numerous. Since then, she has quietly watched from the sidelines of her youth and young adulthood as he has slipped away into the Alzheimer’s world, and learned to love him in a different way.

TIME CHANGES EVERYONE

A few years later she was there for him, taking my place, following a serious 2010 automobile accident which left me incapacitated for several months. Helping our professional caregivers with changing, cleaning and showering Kristina found a very different grandfather than the one she so lovingly remembered. A heavy burden for a young girl recently out of high school, but the experience was in her chosen line of work – that of a medical assistant. She had already stacked up several years of experience, both as a volunteer and then as an employee with the local recreation department working with disabled adults.

NOT THE SAME GRANDFATHER

Helping with her grandfather, however, was different because of the close relationship. Furthermore, there were times when he was abusive with her when Ken wasn’t as firmly restrained as he was later. Little by little with the caregiver’s expertise we all learned new methods in working with our Alzheimer’s patient who was still amazingly strong with some remaining verbal skills which could be cruel and insulting. Nevertheless, Kristina along with the rest of us learned to love and accept who he was and understood that her grandfather’s outbursts were the disease and not the grandpa she had known.

My husband’s disease has taken him further and further into the lost world of Alzheimer’s, and while there is never an improvement, he has become less hostile and every so often the love comes forth as Ken makes an effort to communicate.

MESSAGE FROM THE HEART

Kristina sat with him yesterday afternoon asking how he was feeling and other tidbits of small talk. Finally she reached out touching his hand and said, “I love you Grandpa.” He smiled a sweet smile and managed a faltering, “I loooo” He didn’t get out the complete thought and word , but it was almost there and she knew it. She was thrilled with the sweet moment when he made an effort to return her message of love

VALUE, RESPECT AND ALZHEIMER’

IMPORTANT DECISIONS

Men carrying older lady on a stretcher.

Rather than a pine box, grandsons carried Mom on a lawn couch to Dad’s waiting car. Holding a lily she could have been Cleopatra with a peacock feather carried by slaves.  The silly journey eased the pain of leaving their lovely home in the  country.

July 12,’ 2014 — “You’ll have to take me out of here in a pine box,” said my mother many years ago, and long before her confusion became the dreaded Alzheimer’s. She and my dad had retired to a lovely piece of land just a few miles west of Sebastopol, California in beautiful Sonoma County when they were in their early 60s.

EARLY RETIREMENT 

My dad, who had worked at Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard received an early retirement because of his worn-out knees which made it next to impossible for him to continue climbing up and down the ladders of America’s former war ships. He was also one of the “older” employees so it was easier for the Navy to just retire him rather than to be concerned with Dad’s aches, pains and restricted duty. Besides, the war had been over for many years and keeping up the fleet of aging, obsolete warships was fast becoming a thing of the past.

THE PERFECT PLACE  

In their search, my parents found a small piece of God’s amazing planet, built their dream home and settled in to enjoy the rest of their lives. We, three daughters and our husbands could only have hoped that their fabulous retirement years extended into nearly a quarter century. Little by little, however, Father Time collected his toll from both of them. Dad developed several conditions including congestive heart failure and Mama had recovered from a broken hip and kidney stones, but her mind was slipping away into mild dementia.

HELP WHEN NEEDED

As a family, Ken and I would periodically organize our adult children, their spouses or the current significant other, and spend a weekend at their acre and a half, trimming, weeding and trying to keep up with the demands of their little farm — an impossible task — but a fun getaway for us and helpful to Mom and Dad. All the while, they stubbornly stuck to the earlier declaration of living where they chose until they died. Even though there was concern from friends, neighbors and their church leaders, we three sisters allowed our parents their own decision. My two sisters lived in Washington State and so the responsibility of our parents’ care was, basically, mine.

HARVEST  FROM THE GARDEN

Mama still picked from her garden, canned fruit from their trees, froze a few vegetables, and the two took care of each other. My father could still drive during the day so they met their doctor’s appointments, shopped in town for their needs and actually got along quite well.

My one sister and her husband came from Washington for a visit and decided while they were there, she would do some “scudding out.” With my father’s permission, and while my mother was engaged elsewhere, my well-meaning sister took it upon herself to clear out what she believed to be “older” jars of fruit and canned goods. Loading half of my mother’s summer efforts into the back of her car, she took it all to the dumps. Among the loss was Mama’s favorite: a batch of newly canned Raw Tomato Relish.

 WELL MEANING ISN’T ALWAYS THE RIGHT ANSWER

It wasn’t until my sister and her husband had returned home that Mama went to her storage looking for a jar of the relish and found the cupboards half bare. Puzzled, she asked my father if he knew anything about the missing supply. Reluctantly, Dad had to confess his part in the vanished food supply explaining my sister meant well and had promised to toss only outdated storage. Mama was not only furious, she was crushed at not being consulted; at being treated as less than a thinking, reasonable and responsible adult; a person without value; a person who, in Mama’s eyes, was no longer respected. “What are we,” she asked, “if we have no value and no respect?” Feeling betrayed by not only her daughter, but by her husband as well, she fell into a long period of depression.

Eventually, she came out of her sadness, buoyed up by her faith and exercising forgiveness, and life resumed for the two of them.  I certinly wouldn’t imply that her forgetfulness escalated because of the incident, but she began to slip further and further away from reality.

 STILL THE CAPTAIN OF HIS SHIP 

 Health reasons soon necessitated their move to be closer to me and Ken. Even though I managed their affairs. I understood the importance of respect and  “being master of one’s own ship” I allowed my father to believe he was the one in charge even though they had given me power of attorney.  He reviewed the mail and studied the bank statement; a job which had been my mother’s all of their married life. I doubt he understood what he was perusing but doing so reinforced his sense of validation and independence. Dad was still in command — the head of his household.

I never made a decision without consulting him, never took away his authority which allowed him to be a person who stepped up to the plate, taking on the responsibility of providing for the care of his beloved wife until her death at home in her 90th year. He died six months later at home — also in his 90th year — a man of honor, a man valued and respected.

MEMORIES OF THE 4TH OF JULY BEFORE ALZHEIMER’S

A NEW CITIZEN

July 4, 2014 – Long ago in Contentmentville, where Ken and I lived with our five children, the 4th of July was celebrated as the birthday for America: the place where we made our home. The land to which Nicholas Romick, Ken’s father, emigrated in 1906. The land of opportunity for a boy of 15 who came alone with a pack on his back to seek his fortune. He was a true patriot and served his new country well: a stint in the Marine Corps,and then becoming a hard worker and solid citizen. This, of course, was before Alzheimer’s became an intruder in all of our lives. Nick loved his new country and taught his children about his humble beginning and to always remember who they were and to remember their freedom and celebrate living in this choice land.

A BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION

And whose birthday is it today?” was the prime question tossed out to the group of small children gathered on someone’s front steps, when you children were young. It took a few minutes and with some hints and coaching from the adults the youghful participants realized that it was America’s birthday. A simple history lesson for the small fry to think about as the neighborhood residents gathered for the party to begin.

SAFE AND SANE

It was an easier time back then, a more relaxed time when we were all younger, and most counties allowed the sale of safe and sane fireworks for the festivities of the 4th. A few sparklers set the stage on quiet streets while elsewhere everyone could look to the sky to see rockets and other fireworks lighting the darkness, but our youngsters were happy with what had.

GROWING UP AND MOVING ON

Our neighborhood is just like the one where I grew up,” claimed our married son Kevin, the father of three. It was an invitation for me and Ken to come to their block party and enjoy the holiday with a bar-b-cue in the afternoon and watch as the darkness approached for what other communities might be doing in the way of fireworks.

With a new batch of children we played a form of jeopardy as a test to see what they were learning in school about the early history of their country. Questions about our founding fathers and the Revolutionary War and their earned freedoms. Prizes were awarded to the youngsters according to the number of correct answers. Fun for all filled the early evening hours.

The tradition continued for several years until those small children grew up and went their own way.

THE UNINVITED GUEST

It was a sunny afternoon, one year, at the bar-b-cue that I mentioned to Mike, Ken’s brother-in-law that Ken had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was really no surprise with both parents having been stricken, but now it was both of the siblings. Loretta, Ken’s sister, had the disease as well.

ROCKETS RED GLARE

Our journey home took about an hour, and as I drove through the various communities one could see traces of fireworks all along the rim of the bay.

Look Ken,” I would say, “Watch over the water and see the rockets bursting in the sky. It’s so pretty, but most directions and conversation were without response. The last few years of our new tradition left him without awe about the “rockets’ red glare. Alzheimer’s has snuffed out the memory like a burned match.

Even now as his journey has reached the severe stage, the noise from out of doors and the pops and bangs are hardly heard as another 4th of July comes and goes in our Alzheimer’s home.

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL

Nevertheless, out there I know there are families with young children who are remembering and celebrating America’s big day, some with safe and sane fireworks with little ones holding a sparkler as America celebrates her 239thbirthday.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

AND

MANY, MANY MORE

 

WHAT BETTER GIFT FOR FATHER’S DAY THAN A NEW GREAT GRANDSON?

dad and newborn

A new baby comes to the Romcik family 2 weeks before Father’s Day

EARLY FATHER’S DAY BEGINNINGS – TWO GIRLS AND THEN A BOY

June 13, 2014 – Following the birth of our two girls, Ken and I had a man child – a boy. This, of course, was long before Alzheimer’s had raised its ugly head in any of our lives. It was a word that never crossed our minds. Our hearts and thoughts were filled with the excitement of a new person in our lives. Our future looked promising and bright. Continue reading

Alzheimer’s and the Kindness of Others

KINDESS NEEDED WHEN THE HELP GETS SICK

young man old nab

Caregiving help can come from the kindness of other, a resource to use when necessary.

June 6, 2014 – I have mentioned many times how blessed I am to have such wonderful, dedicated caregivers in Ben, Crizaldo and now David as we battle our 10-year, at-home war with Alzheimer’s.  But sometimes I need to stretch a little to find  kindness and help from others. A while back, Ben required time off to care for his wife following knee surgery. He has also developed some health issues of his own.

Fortunately, a former caregiver, David, has been able to fill in the empty days. My gratitude for these men goes beyond measure. Even with such reinforcement it would be unrealistic to presume that a glitch every now and then doesn’t happen. No road is without potholes, detours and unmarked curves, not even the usually smooth passage that leads these men to my front door.

ANY VOLUNTEERS?

It was just before Ben declared that he required a block of time off that he called early one morning saying that he was not feeling well and couldn’t make it to work. “Can you call David,” he asked? “I’ll manage,” I said reassuringly but wondering how. “You take care of yourself and get well.” I added in a tone of encouragement. But deep inside I was asking myself, “What will I do?” I cannot handle Ken without help.

Normally, with David as the standby caregiver I could give him a call, but not at the last minute. He has other commitments and by 7:30 a.m. he is usually gone from his home. What now I thought? Calling me in for a quick council meeting with me, I again asked myself, “What and where do I start?”

THE PROBLEM? EVERYONE WORKS

On a week day I eliminate friends and family with jobs. That takes in just about everyone I know. Then, as I reached back into my memory recalling the kindness of others who had volunteered their help, and are at home for one reason or another. my thoughts turned to a whole different category. Often, though, a good number of them can’t help because of their own disability: back problems prohibit them from any lifting. Furthermore, lifting my husband is, at times, dead weight because of his self-programed resistance. Then there are the remaining volunteers who might have their weekend during the week, and a few others who are retired.

HELP IS ON THE WAY

It was Richard’s name that came floating to the top of that list, and he’s retired. I know his wife Shirley better than I know Richard, but he and I have become chat-room friends. He asks about the both of us, and in closing with kindness he writes, “Now if you need any help with Ken, please call. I’ll be glad to be there.” I called Richard.

SUSPICION FROM KEN

Despite being in the severe stages of Alzheimer’s Ken can feel when someone new is on board. Richard is not without experience having been “there” for his father during a long illness. Besides, he is familiar with the cleaning process being the father of triplets – now grown. Ken’s resistance was extraordinary that morning and it took Richard a while to adjust to his surprising strength. In the three-person tussle Ken pulled away from me and Richard sitting down on the floor in his soiled night clothes plus the overflow; fighting both of us he was like a man possessed.

Needless to say I thought Richard might just give up and go back home, but he was a trooper all the way. First we got Ken onto a commode and I cleaned the floor. Eventually we guided him into the bathroom where he was shaved, washed, changed and back into a comfy chair ready for the day.

“Richard,” I kept saying, “this kind of disaster never happens. It’s a first. I am so sorry.”

“It’s no problem,” insisted my friend. “I know all about how messy things can get. I worked with my dad.”

I could read his face. It was pleasant and unruffled; a face with no voiced “ughs,” no signs of disgust or despair, but it did hold all the signs of being willing to help.

THE NIGHT CREW

Our friend Mason was our emergency caregiver the first night and son Keith took the second night. I strive not to overburden anyone.

The second morning, still without a caregiver, Richard was there once again. The previous day’s experience made him better prepared and we had finished the routine in 40 minutes.

But through the frustration I felt at being alone, the magic ingredient that was the healing balm to my stranded, somewhat daunted psyche was the kindness and absolute willingness which touched my heart with deep gratitude. It’s one thing for people to say, “Just call if you need help.” But it’s often something else to have them be truly available and willing.

KINDNESS HAS ITS OWN LEARNING CURVE

When my children were young and had been given a service assignment – the giving of oneself and their time – it was a new concept. Their tender years and learning curve at first made the thought an unwelcome challenge. “Why” was the usual question asked in a whining tone noting that the recipients weren’t even family? “Because,” I answered, “your service will be helpful making them feel better and you will feel really good about yourself.”

A TRUE GIFT OF CHARITY

Futher, I explained that they didn’t have to do it, but if they did choose to meet the challenge then it had to be with a happy and giving heart – or don’t do it at all. Mission accomplished: they each returned with a smile on their face. They experienced the joy of doing for others, and the inner satisfaction of service done willingly.

It was the willingness of those who volunteer to help, and their pure kindness, when emergencies arise that is the true gift of charity. For them and their gift I am forever grateful.

 

MEMORIAL DAY, A TIME TO THANK THE YANKS

As the last flower dies in the cemetary and people return from their mini-vacations, i repost this tribute to Memorial Dayand the those who gave all they could for our freedom.

Service man;s cemetary

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, and the remebrance of those who gave all they could.

Memorial Day 2013 – “Thanks to the Yanks, to the men in the ranks – in the ships, in the tanks, in the planes…………..” That jingle was part of a cigarette give-away program during WWII whereby gifts of the tobacco commodity were shipped to our fighting armed forces free of charge. Smoking, at the time, was thought to be a harmless source of comfort for our troops, and there was seldom a sketch or photo of the enlisted man not holding a smoldering butt in his hand; the smoke curling upward as he took a well-deserved break. That same little ditty with its catchy melody is also something which pops into my head whenever I see or hear a reminder to thank the service men and women of the United States of America and our Veterans. Thanks Yanks! Continue reading

ALZHEIMER’S – A LEARNING EXPERIENCE IN ANOTHER WORLD

 

scuba divers

Like Alzheimer’s caregiving, the world under the see is a new learning experience.

AN EXCITING WORLD UNDER THE SEA

May 23, 2014 – Recently my new friend Denise and I were chatting on Facebook about the learning experience of the  fabulous underwater world that exists just below the surface of the oceans. For us, it was the beautiful Pacific which borders our state of California. She had watched a short clip of the life that exists and flourishes in that place where we are foreigners. Wishing that she and her husband Bob could enjoy this exciting experience, I shared with her Ken’s and my adventure as we swam with the fishes while on vacation several years before Alzheimer’s disease became our world. Continue reading

GIFTS FOR MOMS AND STAY-AT-HOME CAREGIVERS

warpped present

Thoughtfulness is appreciated whether one is a mother or caregiver.

 May 16 2014 – I recently read a blog by Megan Tietz directed at making  “Stay-at-home moms” happier. As I noted all of the nice things friends and family can do for these hard-working and dedicated women I couldn’t help but think about a whole bevy of women who are “Stay-at-home caregivers.”

 LOTS IN COMMON

Their jobs are similar, but more than likely the two are separated by decades.  The moms, of course, are caring for little people who can’t care for themselves.  A.D. Caregivers, who were likely stay-at-home moms spending earlier years caring for a young family are now caring for older loved ones who can’t care for themselves either.

 ALL ALONE AND SOMETIMES LONELY

 Furthermore, both jobs require a certain amount of confinement in the home (also known as cabin fever) which makes their job a bit isolated and often lonely. It’s been said from moms of small ones that their days of excitement are often topped off with a lunch of peanut butter/jelly sandwishes and the stimulating conversation of a three-year old.

 While rearing the next generation, though, moms can thrill as the children learn, grow and develop. In contrast the Alzheimer’s caregivers have no delightful or encourageing rewards. In caring for the elderly who are losing memory the experience is laced with sadness and often sorrow as the loved one slowly fades into the ghostly and lost world of Alzheimer’s.  As with rearing children, caregiving is a labor of love:  An unselfish choice made with love and devotion. Continue reading

Moms, Magic And A Mother’s Day Story

womens stove pipe hat

Mom’s have magic, even if it’s not Mother’s Day.

May 9, 2013 – With Mother’s Day coming up, if you think about it, your mother was the first magician in your life. When you were tiny and your world and her’s were perfect.  We didn’t know anyone who had Alzheimer’s disease. Mother appeared from out of nowhers, just like magic to answer your pleadings for food, a diaper change and to give you love, a pat on the back and a few hugs mixed with plenty of TLC. Continue reading

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