Tag Archives: inspiration

Adapting to Dementia: Laurie Scherrer’s Inspiring Story

“I’m having a slow day,” Laurie Scherrer says, when I call her Pennsylvania home for our scheduled conversation on adapting to dementia. “So bear with me.”

It was easy to bear with Laurie, as she is bright, positive, articulate, insightful, and authentic.

I met her during a telephone interview for the esteemed podcast, Alzheimer’s Speaks, which she co-hosted along with founder Lori La Bey. I was so impressed with both of the women’s insights and interviewing abilities, and I wanted to learn more about how Laurie managed her life with early onset dementia.  Here are some highlights from our conversation.

From Sales Leader to Closet Cleaner

How do you go from excelling in a distinguished business career as a top manager and sales leader to becoming an unemployed 55-year-old woman who can no longer do a simple math problem or weed her prized garden?

That’s what happened when Laurie Scherrer was diagnosed with early onset dementia in 2013.  After days of languishing at home, cleaning out closets, and feeling like a complete nobody, she realized she needed to take action. And being a woman filled with determination and creativity, she did just that, with her husband offering his unwavering support.

“I have a passion for excellence and the recognition that comes with it,” Laurie says. “Being Number One in sales drove me.”

Since she had nothing to push towards, she turned toward writing blogs and to her former passion for sewing, so she’d once again feel accomplished. Plus, Laurie wanted something tangible to give to her family members, something that said, “I love you.”

Forgetting the Curves and Going Straight

In her earlier days, before her career consumed much of her time, Laurie was an accomplished seamstress, reveling in creating costumes for church programs. She had loved sewing quilts and clothes and decided she’d return to her former hobby.

She sat down with yards of fabric, ready to cut quilting squares. But hard as she tried, she could not figure out how to cut the fabric. She was slumped over her sewing machine, weeping, when her neighbor dropped by.

“I can’t do this anymore,” Laurie said.

“I’ll help you,” her neighbor said.

She brought over a cutting board with lines in it and talked Laurie through the process of cutting the cloth.

“Once she helped me lay it out, I could do it again,” Laurie says.  

Laurie has since created blankets, pillowcases, burping cloths, and more for her family.

“The straight lines are working for me,” she says.

Noticing the Blessings

Laurie is making the most of her life. She treasures her glorious back yard and her deepened relationship with nature.

“Before, I was so busy, I never saw all the beauty around me,” she says.

She also treasures her worldwide friendships with people living with dementia, which she nourishes through video chatting and posting on Facebook. She and some chat friends recently started a virtual spiritual dementia café, where they read, discuss scripture and pray with and for people from all over the world.

Most of all she loves knowing she is giving back and helping others through her writing, speaking, radio hosting, and advocacy.

Teaming Up to Produce Great Results

Laurie and her husband work together to help her live a vibrant life. Here are their tips:

  • Have a designated place and time to escape to, with no phones or email, so you can talk, cry, and really express yourself.
  • Talk through the tough times. Notice when someone has a difficult day and figure out how you can improve things.
  • Work together to adapt beloved activities.  
  • Laugh as much as possible.
  • Be thankful for every good moment.

I know you’re going to want to know more about this remarkable woman and her tips for adapting to dementia.  Visit https://dementiadaze.com/about-me/

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.
CITLOD very smallLove in the Land of Dementia_cover

Leave a comment

Filed under Care Partnering, Caregiving, Communication, Creativity, Inspiration, Relationships, The Arts

Four Ways to Support Care Partners

We all know that wrenching feeling of wanting to support our friends who are immersed in being care partners but not understanding how best to help. Many of us know the feeling of being exhausted care partners and not knowing just how to ask for the help we need.

Mara Botonis, author of When Caring Take Courage, created a list of meaningful tips, captured in a note to friends from a care partner. I really appreciate her empathetic yet practical outlook and wanted to share a few of her ideas with you.  cut flowers

 

 

The Present in the Present

I so appreciate you wanting to help me, I don’t always have time to read a book, watch a movie, or accept your generous invites to restaurant meals or spa treatments. The best gifts save me time and energy and are a treat I can enjoy at home without arranging care. I would love a visit that includes a pre-made dinner we can share. Any of these thoughtful gifts would lift my spirits: a CD with my favorite songs, a favorite dessert or snack, a chance to play a favorite game with you, a soft cuddly blanket, or fresh flowers.

 

Write Me

Write me a note or an email. I can’t always talk on the phone or devote the time I’d like to an in-person visit.   I’m usually only “free” to socialize when my loved one is sleeping and even then, I am alert to his needs. If you write to me, I can read it when I have time to truly enjoy it.

 

Share Memories

women photo albumReminisce with me. I willingly and lovingly put another person first for most parts of my every day. Sometimes I feel like big parts of me get lost so please remind me of our earlier times together. You may be the only one I get to do this with.

 

Please Stay in Touch

You don’t have to worry about saying or doing the right thing. I don’t always know what that is either. Please just keep trying. Don’t avoid calling or coming over because you may be feeling uncomfortable or unsure. I feel that way too sometimes and I’m here every day. Please don’t forget about me. I’m still here. I still love you. We still need and want you in our lives. Please reach out. There isn’t any way you can interact with me that would be unwelcomed or wrong. Just keep trying. #

 

When caring takes courage

After thirty years working in healthcare throughout the United States, Mara’s life was forever changed when a close family member was impacted by Alzheimer’s.

Please visit her website:

Website: http://www.whencaringtakescourage.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/When-Caring-Takes-Courage-Compassionate/dp/1478730536/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1400634987&sr=8-1

 

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

Leave a comment

Filed under Advocacy, Care Partnering, Caregiving, Communication, Taking Care of Yourself, Uncategorized

Rock with Rhymes that Resonate

The audience was quiet, partially because some of the people were slumped over in their wheelchairs, eyes closed. Gary Glazner stood in front of the group, wondering if he could engage them. He had received a grant to offer a poetry workshop in a memory care unit and he had carefully selected several familiar poems. He’d introduced himself to everyone and he was ready to inspire people through reading poetry. But were they ready for him? He took a breath and began.

arrow   “I shot an arrow into the air,” Gary said to the seemingly comatose group.

“And it fell down I know not where,” said an elderly man without even raising his head.

That was the beginning spark for Gary Glazner’s Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, a process he created to help engage and connect with those living with dementia through reading aloud and discussing poetry.

“There are four steps to the process,” Gary explains. “First, a call and response, where I read a line of poetry and the group echoes it. Then we discuss the poem. Next, we add props to the experience and finally, we create our own poem.”

A few of the familiar poems Gary uses include:

The Tyger—William Blake

The Owl and the Pussy Cat—Edward Lear

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod—Eugene Field

How do I Love Thee?—Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Purple Cow—Gelette Burgess

Jabberwocky—Lewis Carroll

Daffodils—William Wordsworth

cow

His website, www.alzpoetry.com, is brimming with verse and rich with recommendations.

Gary has shared poetry with people living with dementia all over the world. His usual session lasts around an hour. He often centers his poems on a theme, such as Summer, Birds, Trees, or Food, and enriches the gathering with objects that engage the senses. For example, to supplement summer-time poetry, he might include a bucket of sand and a conch shell. He brings a misting spray to simulate an ocean breeze and lets people smell suntan lotion. For refreshments, he suggests fresh strawberries, lemonade, popsicles, or homemade ice cream. This four-step poetry process also works at home with just two care partners

“Poetry goes beyond the autobiographical memory and offers care partners a way to communicate with someone who has memory loss,” Gary says.

Good news for the Kansas City area: Gary is doing a poetry workshop here in early October. For more information, contact Deb Campbell at kcseniortheatre@gmail.com

For more information on Gary and the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, visit www.alzpoetry.com 

Gary’s book is a great resource: Dementia Arts: Celebrating Creativity in Elder Care

www.dementiaarts.com/

Dementa+Arts+Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Care Partnering, Caregiving, Creativity, Inspiration, The Arts

Creative Splashes

Sometimes I am around many creative people and I soak up their energy and ideas. Other days, I work alone. On those solitary days, I use these quote to inspire and ignite my creative spirit.

creativity 1 “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”  ― Kurt Vonnegut

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty. You want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”    ― Osho

creativity 3“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”   ― Martha Graham

“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.”  — Alan Alda

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.creativity 2

Leave a comment

Filed under Creativity, Inspiration, Taking Care of Yourself, The Arts

The Balm of Laughter: Bringing Light to Dark Thoughts

broadway musicalOn the stage, a lavish musical was unfolding, complete with booming orchestra, bold singers, and catchy choreography. I was watching the action but my mind was on a move we’d recently seen, Still Alice, which featured a brilliant 50-year-old woman with early onset Alzheimer’s. More accurately, I was analyzing what I would do if I had Alzheimer’s: the note I might carry around, asking for people’s kindness and patience if I should repeat myself or get lost … or I worried about the burden on my children and wondered if there would be a point where I’d  want to die. Then I thought about my mother: even when times were really tough and sad with my mom, I never wanted her to die; I never wanted to be without her company. Then I … Well, you get the idea; instead of enjoying a light-hearted Broadway road show, I was stirring up negative energy and stewing over uncertainties outside of my control.

At intermission, I reported these morbid thoughts to Ron. He listened carefully, then said, “Well, at least you can get a book out of this.”

I looked at him blankly. “What book?”

He looked right at me. “Well, instead of Still Alice, you can write Used to Be Deborah.

I burst out laughing; Ron laughed, and I was back in the present.

Ron’s comment had reminded me of one of my dad’s favorite jokes.

Warning: this joke is really not that funny but it stuck with me.

A man wanted to find out the meaning of life. He climbed a high mountain and consulted a guru; this sage guruman told him he needed a daily chanting and meditation practice. Every day, he needed to sit on a meditation cushion and first chant, “Sensa, Sensa, Sensa. “ for one hour.

Then he needed to intone, “Huma, Huma, Huma” for another hour.

The man did this and after two weeks of feeling more frustrated than enlightened, he returned to the guru and said, “It isn’t working. I’ve had no revelations and the whole exercise is about to drive me crazy.”

The guru stroked his white beard (My father’s gurus frequently sported long white beards) and contemplated for what seemed like 400 hours. After 30 interminable minutes, he said, “Well, my son, you are now ready to put these two sacred chants together.  First one, slowly, then the other slowly and build up to where you’re saying the hallowed words quickly, one after the other.”

The man hurried home, relieved to have a new assignment.

He intoned, “Sensa.” Then he chanted, “Huma.”

Faster and faster he chanted, until the two words blended into the true meaning of life, “Sensa Humor.”

How do we keep our “Sensa Humor” in the midst of uncertainty and chaos?guru joke

For me, it’s glorious groaning puns, wise and witty friends, and a willingness to laugh. How about you?

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

Leave a comment

Filed under Care Partnering, Communication, Creativity, Inspiration