Joan was a participant in a small storytelling group of a local memory care unit. A very soft spoken woman, her dementia affected her ability to process a question and formulate her response. Her verbal skills were intact for if asked to read she could with ease. What I learned through Joan’s form of dementia was that the pressure to respond was the inhibiting factor. What I continue to learn is how dementia affects individuals in many very different ways.
As I work with clients or you work with your own loved ones, we witness those whose memories and oral communication skills are very much intact. Tom’s family wanted Legacies to capture his story. He didn’t suffer from memory loss knowing each stage of his life script verbatim. Marilyn, another Legacies client brought forward more of her narrative than her family had ever heard once we broke the stories down into manageable memories.
In both instances, I found that the stress-to-recall behavior played an integral role in framing the account of a life well lived. Whether working with individuals capable of full scale recollections or those experiencing early stages of memory loss, it is helpful to recognize the role that stress plays as we, with all good intentions solicit memories.
Like a forest regenerating itself, we find those memories deep within the ecosystem of a forest floor reaching to find new life in the overstory, the uppermost canopy of the present day.
With the expanding research on Dementia, updated information surfaces each day helping us identify early signs within our own circle. The distinction between Dementia and Alzheimer’s often causes confusion. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), Dementia is a brain disorder that affects communication and performance of daily activities. Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that specifically affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. In other words, Dementia is the umbrella with Alzheimer’s as one of many diseases covering a wide range of symptoms.
For those who appreciate visual representations the Alzheimer’s Association provides an excellent Brain Tour at www.alz.org/braintour. The Brain Tour illustrates the disease using user-friendly terminologies and images describing the disease and its physiological effects on us. Learn about terms like: Thinking Wrinkles and Neuron Forest. It’s well worth a visit.
No matter where or when you begin - don’t get caught in the “I wish I would have” mantra. For so many, time slips away before we know it.
Let’s Get Started ... before it’s too late!