Category Archives: FrontoTemporal Dementia

grocery shopping with dementia

Adjusting to Dementia #1 Grocery Shopping

People frequently ask how I adjust for the challenges caused with increasing symptoms. No longer being able to multitask, getting confused following directions and lack of focus, does often make it difficult to maintain a house and have some social activities. Sometimes it seems like we no sooner resolve one issue than another pops up.

Roy and I don’t accept the fact that I CAN’T do things anymore. Instead, we try to review each challenge, figure out what the obstacle is and find a way to adjust to make it happen.

Some of the adjustments we have made are so simple and so convenient that some our friends (who don’t have dementia) decided to use these techniques as well. I’m going to start with two affordable Hooks that have helped eliminate some Dementia Daze.

Loosing Keys:
People often tell me they loose their keys all the time. I did too. Except . . . with dementia, we tend to try to put EVERYTHING in a “SAFE Place”! In my case the “Safe Place” was ANYWHERE – – generally the freezer, in back of the cleaning supplies or in the safe, which is also where I put eggs, milk, remotes, etc.. Once we learned where my head thought was a “Safe Place” we knew where to look, until my head decided it found a new “Safe Place”.

Obstacle #1: Finding the keys.
The best way to find the keys is never to lose them. As with most women, I rarely leave the house without my purse. After deciding the best place to keep my keys was with my purse, we attached a hook onto my purse that holds my keys. I am happy now to say, I have not lost my keys in over 6 months! They never leave my purse. With the hook, I can easily move the keys from one purse to another. The hook and key holder are long enough that while my purse is on my arm, I can reach the door to lock it, sturdy enough that it is not going to fall off and small enough that I can slip it into my purse so only the end shows and it doesn’t get in my way. So the answer is: to never lose your keys!!! Keep them attached to your purse! Sorry men, I don’t have an answer for you.

Obstacle #2: The grocery cart and the grocery bags.

As many people with dementia, I have lost my ability to filter sound. Voices become amplified as though I am in a cave. When shopping, noise is everywhere, baby crying, kids running, people talking, carts banging – – chaos!
Moved the creamer – – track it down – – Whew! Finally done – – Go to the checkout – – – Five people in line – – Noise intensifying – – coming from every angle – – Can’t think, sounds like everyone is speaking through a boom box.

The one little outing that others take for granted, is often a tremendous undertaking. Because it creates such mental fatigue, I am usually unable to focus on anything else the rest of the day.

As with many things in our lives, my husband and I have found some tips to make grocery shopping easier me:

Shopping needs to be done before 10:00 in the morning Monday through Thursday when the store is less crowded. Always shop the same store – it reduces the confusion of finding things and becomes a familiar environment with familiar faces.
I am fortunate to live near Giant Food Stores in Gilbertsville. The manager and employees are WONDERFUL! Rebecca in customer service is always smiling. The gentleman at the fish counter, the young man who helps bag the groceries, the women at the checkout and even the man who collects the carts – they don’t know me and I don’t know their names, but they are all familiar faces and make me feel comfortable. More than once when I asked where to find an item, rather than saying an aisle number – they took me to it! Wow! That is such a help.

After a few times of loosing my purse and walking off with someone else’s cart, we came up with a simple solution to keep my cart and purse together. So far it’s worked great!

I made the below video to share with many of my dementia friends at Dementiamentors.org. I only hope all the Giant Gilbertsville Customers don’t find out and start using this idea – well, if so we will have to figure out a new strategy!

TIPS FOR GROCERY SHOPPING WITH DEMENTIA with LAURIE SCHERRER from Dementia Mentors on Vimeo.

Enjoy!

Love & Laughter,

Laurie

Living Well & Fading Slow with Dementia

Living Well & Fading Slow by Laurie Scherrer

Dementia is a Slow Process – Sometimes referred to as “Death in Slow Motion”

Dementia does not have a set pattern or schedule. It affects people in brain-cell-deathdifferent ways, often pulling files of “things we don’t do” from the back of our brain. Some PWD (Persons with Dementia) get angry, some cry. Some develop inappropriate sexual behaviors and some become violent. Some have trouble with balance and others have trouble with perception. Some drift off to a far away place, while others get stuck in the past. Some symptoms progress quickly and others are gradual. All symptoms eat away at a part of our memory and our past.

I am one of the estimated 5.3 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I am one of the estimated 200,000 Americans under age 65 trying to adapt to the challenges of each new symptom. I am one of the many PWD advocating for Dementia Awareness and legislative changes to improve the quality of life for PWD and their caregivers.

Alzheimer’s and other dementia related diseases don’t happen over night. They can involve years of challenges, frustrations and changes. Although fiction, the movie “Still Alice” portrayed some of the struggles encountered during the beginning stages of dementia.   The early progression of dementia is extremely frightening. Knowing that you are slowly being robbed of memories and abilities, and knowing the struggles you and your loved ones will deal with gnaws at your heart.

Alzheimer’s is one of many dementia diseases with memory loss and cognitive impairment symptoms strong enough to interrupt the process of daily living. Currently, the only way to diagnosis Alzheimer’s with complete accuracy is by having a neuropathologist examine the brain under a microscope. Since that involves dissecting the brain, the diagnosis will usually be listed as “Suspected Alzheimer’s”.   Regardless of what label is put on the disease, dementia is usually a long process of losing a piece of your brain bit by bit as you, and “those around you”, watch the changes and deal with the challenges. Through most of dementia, there are good moments (seconds, minutes, hours and sometimes days) when the brain seems to give a glimpse of clarity without any confusion.

Frequently people have the idea that PWD don’t know what is happening – not true! At the beginning, most people will deny or find excuses for the changes we are going through and try to cover-up the challenges; but we know. Often, we learn to hide our symptoms so well that people around us don’t suspect what we are going through.   Most fight to stay in their “normal” world, not wanting to admit the ability to function has changed.   Eventually, the confusion and cognitive impairment can no longer be muted.   As each new symptom takes away another piece of our brain, we ache for the “old me” back, for the comprehension we once had. We watch in agony as our aptitudes slip away and we are no longer able to have a career, multi-task, manage money, drive a car, or take care of our garden.

Many PWD have chosen to fight back by sharing their story and to make adjustments so they can continue a life of adventure, love and laughter for as long as possible. With the help of his family, Glenn Campbell remained active in music for five years after his diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment. President Ronald Regan along with his wife, Nancy, continued speaking for 6 years after his diagnosis. Greg O’Brien, who was diagnosed in 2009 at the age of 59, wrote a book and now, six years later, continues to share his story in hopes of increasing awareness of Early On-set Alzheimer’s. Like the Campbells, O’Briens and Regans, with a good support system many PWD accomplish great things before dementia takes total control. All the while, knowing and often planning for what is to come.

My name is Laurie Scherrer and I have Dementia, suspected to be Early Alzheimer’s and FTD. I may be one of the 200,000 people under 65 diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but I am more than a statistic. I am an active dementia advocate trying to make a difference and increase understanding of dementia and the stigma of helplessness that goes with it.   Yes, I have changed a lot in the last few years and my life will never be like it was.

For now, with adjustments I am living a life full of laughter and purpose.

Love & Laughter.

Laurie

Dementiadaze.com

© Copyright May 2015 Laurie Scherrer

Sometimes I Think My Dementia is Better and I Feel Like I Could Fly

“I’m getting better! I know I am. My life is running smoother, and I can think. Yeah, let’s celebrate!” I’m whirling around the house singing “I can see clearly now the fog (rain) is gone” and Peter Pan’s “I can Fly!”

BANG! Suddenly the confusion returns and I feel lost again. Life seems fuzzy as though I am caught in a maze and can’t figure out where to go or what to do. Sorting the laundry seems like such a task – what temperature do I use with whites? “But I was getting better! I had a few really clear days! What happened? Why am I back in Dementia Daze?”img_0031

When I feel like I can conquer the world, it’s hard to accept that in fact what a co
nquered was one aspect of dealing with Dementia Daze. I realize part of the reason for “Good Moments” (when my brain seems clear) is largely due to how we have learned to deal with the challenges. Without my IPad, lists and routines I would live in a constant fog.

Once I was able to multitask with extreme efficiency, now my daily activates must be broken into tiny tasks. For example: The Wash Day list consists of a check off sheet for each segment of accomplishing the task. How to separate the clothes, what setting to use for each load, which load goes in the dryer and what clothes go in the iron pile (yes, I still iron his shirts).   These list are created (or are in the process of being created) for various chores within the house.   Cleaning the bathroom seemed overwhelming to me. I didn’t think I did it right. Breaking each task into segments (clean the toilet with the brush, clean above the shower, etc.) helps me to look at it in tiny pieces and not an overwhelming task.

Living with Dementia is a constant circle of changes – Mood, physical, sleep patterns, comprehension, memory and symptoms are always changing. I have very good moments and I have very bad moments and some good/bad moments. My moments can last one hour or one day. The challenge of dementia is learning how to deal with or reduce all the symptoms and changes.

Picture_11196_taken_on_2014-09-07_141920Although the lists, reminders and alarms on my iPad may not always help me stay focused, for now they are helping me stay organized and accomplish my tasks – one at a time.   They are helping me to have more “good moments” to sing “I can see clearly now the fog is gone” and for right now, for this special moment – I CAN FLY!

Love & Laughter,

Laurie

Written by Laurie Scherrer

© Copyright May 2015 Laurie Scherrer

Mom’s Journey Helps Me Through Mine

Sixteen years ago today at 2:20p.m., myimage 00105 Mom (“Muzzy”) lost her battle with cancer.  I miss her – her smile and laugh, her caring attitude and her power of prayer.   For 2 years and 6 months, I had the pleasure of being her caregiver.  I was the privileged one who got to be with her every day. I believe that journey was preparing me for the journey I now face.

Up until the last three weeks of her life, Muzzy filled her days encouraging others through phone calls, sending cards and letters and praying. Everyday she took her address book and one at a time prayed for every person in her book. There were times she was in severe pain as the cancer was ripping through her bones and organs and she asked someone to read the names for her – one at a time.  Although she didn’t have the strength to hold the book herself – she still prayed for every individual.

In so many ways, Muzzy is still here with me today.  Sometimes I pass the bedroom door and see her laying there praying with her address book. Often it is her words and attitude that help me deal with the challenges of dementia.

Why do I write about living with dementia? Through Muzzy I learned that there is more joy and happiness in focusing on others rather than our illness.

With every article I write, I pray that God will use my challenges, emotions and symptoms to touch someone in a special way. To provide caregivers some insight on what their loved one may be feeling. To encourage PWD (Persons With Dementia) that life does not end after diagnosis – clutch every moment you can. To increase awareness of the progression and challenges of dementia – it starts with confusion and frustration and is so much more than memory loss.

I find joy in every comment from a caregiver saying how much a post helped them relate to their loved one, in every comment from a PWD saying how much it means to them and also with every blog that is shared. As I pray for each person who comments about the struggles – I am happy to know I can still make a difference.

God blessed me with a Mom who set an example of how to find joy in the face of adversities. I share her daily prayer from Psalms 19:14, “ Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”

I love and miss you Muzzy.

Laugh & Laughter,

Laurie

Written By Laurie Scherrer

Let’s Go Away! Trip Turmoil Tip #1

Packing for a trip can be a challenge for anyone – add dementia to that challenge and it can be a very stressful experience. Packing takes thought, coordination and memory – all of which I struggle with.Packing Blue Stripped Shirt

In order to avoid getting to my destination with 27 pair of socks and no underwear, it is essential to prepare early and organize every outfit.   The alternative is to leave all the packing to Roy. In which case, I would find white shorts and pants with hot pink undergarments – not a good option.

My routine includes these steps:

  1. Always wear an outfit once before going on a trip – even if just around the house. This helps coordinate everything that needs to go with it.
  2. Take a picture of the outfit and list all the items needed on the photo. I usually use a post-it note so I can make quick changes if needed.
  3. Keep a trip folder (mine is in my computer and I print them out, but it could bPacking Multicolor Shirte a paper folder). Include:
    1. The labeled pictures
    2. A list of all “Essential Items” other than clothing that will be needed for a trip (deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.).
    3. A list of “May Need Items”
      1. Beach: Water Shoes, Beach Towels, Sun Glasses, Sun Lotion, etc.
      2. Adventures: gloves for zip lining, boots for horseback riding, photos for visiting Mom, money pouch, evening purse, etc.
    4. A list of all medications
  4. Start preparing for the trip a week in advance. From the folder:
    1. Select which outfits to wear one day at a time and check each item on the list to make sure it is ready to go (clean, pressed, etc.)
    2. Check each of the “Essential Items” to make sure there is a sufficient supply
    3. Check the “May Need Items” and make sure they are ready to go
  5. Two days before Trip
    1. Layout each item from the photos – checking off the items as they are laid out
    2. Layout each item from the “Essential” and “May Need” List – checking them off. Highlight any items that need to be added the day of departure.
  6. The day before, have Roy pack my suitcase verifying that I have everything on the photos or lists.  He packs a suitcase much better than me anyway!
  7. The day of departure, pack any items highlighted on the list. Pack the lists and the photos in the suitcase.
  8. Use the photos and lists when returning to make sPacking black gownure nothing is left behind.

Knowing that I am prepared and have everything needed helps reduce the travel tension and safeguards that I won’t be embarrassed to show off our pictures (well most of them)! Now it’s time to go have fun – for as long as we can.

Love & Laughter,

Laurie

Written By Laurie Scherrer

Dear Teenager – This is How Dementia Feels

Dear Teenager,

To answer your questions, “What does dementia feel like – does it hurt?” I want you to think back on some of the places we went.

When we went to the fun house with all the mirrors everything was funny looking and out of proportion. Although we could tell it was us, it just didn’t look right.

At the big corn maze, we got all turned around and every path looked the same.   At first it was fun, but when we thought we would never get out – it was really scary.

After going around & around & around 30 times or so on the “Twister” we couldn’t walk straight and everything was spinning. It was difficult not to run into things.

When you saw ‘Maleficent” in 3D, you told me how real it seemed. When you took the glasses off you could still make it out, but it was all fuzzy and gave you a headache.

My heart was saddened to hear you cry when your classmate unfriended you on FB. In our conversation, you were angry, sad, and frustrated all at the same time.

crazy_mirrorsDementia is kind of like a really bad experience doing all these things at once. If you take all these feelings and put them together at one time, that is how dementia feels on a bad day.

  • Life seems distorted and out of proportion – things just don’t look right.
  • I feel trapped in a maze of wacky mirrors – and can’t figure out which way to turn.
  • My surroundings seem off balance – it’s difficult not to run into things, drop them or knock them over.
  • Everything seems out of focus – my whole world seems fuzzy and sometimes causes a headache.
  • My emotions take control – I am frustrated, sad and angry all at the same time.

All these feelings can be mixed together for a few hours or a few days. You ask; “Does it hurt?” Mostly it hurts inside, because I can’t accomplish the things I want to and I know it is not going to get better. But right now is a good moment. So today, for this good moment – – however long it may last, we are going to laugh, take pictures and count our blessing for every moment we can share.”

Love & Laughter,  Laurie

Written By Laurie Scherrer

© Copyright 2015 Laurie Scherrer

Famous Dementia Doers Who Made A Difference

Recently, when I set out to do a blog on famous PWD (persons with dementia), I was disappointed by the number of people diagnosed with dementia related disease (such as Alzheimer’s) that didn’t speak out. How sad.

In my research of over 200 “famous people” PWD, I found exactly 5 who did something to make a difference.   The others kept their diagnosis hidden until after their death or care facility placement, when the family announced they had been suffering for years.

These five promoted dementia awareness, fought for legislative changes, wrote a book or song and/or became an Alzheimer’s Advocate.

 So I say THANK YOU for being a “Dementia Doer.”

1- Ronald Reagan – In 1994, he informed the Nation he had Alzheimer’s in this hand written note: http://www.reagan2020.us/speeches/announcement_of_alzheimers.asp

2- Charlton Heston – He informed the public he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in this letter: http://www.fanunity.com/heston/alzheimers_text.html

 3- Rita Hayworth – EOAD first noticeable at age 46. When she died, at age 68, President Ronald Regan included in his statement: “Rita became known for her struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Her courage and candor, and that of her family, were a great public service in bringing worldwide attention to a disease which we all hope will soon be cured.”

4- Glenn Campbell – After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011 he went on to complete his “Goodbye Tour” with three of his children.

 5-Patricia “Pat” Summit – The book she wrote, “Sum it Up”, covers her life including her experience being diagnosed and living with Alzheimer’s. She is currently an advocate for people with Alzheimer’s Disease.

During the last 18 months, I have met the most remarkable PWDs who are using their precious cognitive time to make a difference. These “Dementia Doers” continue to: promote dementia awareness, fight for legislative changes, write books, blogs or websites, and/or act as mentors to other PWD.

I want to say Thank You to MY list of famous PWD, including: Robealz herosrt Bowles, Harry Urban, Norms McNamara, David Kramer, Chris Roberts, Paulan Gordon, Susan Suchan, Karen Francis, Rick Phelps, Truthful Kindness, and Jennifer Bute. Like Rita Hayworth and Pat Summit, most of these people were diagnosed before age 58.

Thank you for letting the world know our brains may be dyeing, but we’re still having some fun and trying to DO SOMETHING to help others and make a difference. Ronald Regan said: “At the moment I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done… I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.”

Love & Laughter, Laurie

Written By Lauire Scherrer

A Small Outing Can Be a BIG Deal

I am 56 and I have dementia (a.k.a. Progressive Degenerative Impairment, Early Onset Alzheimer’s, etc). I share my thoughts and emotions, in hope that this will help others who are part of this dementia daze. People wonder why I don’t want to go places anymore. Why I don’t like to do the things I used to do. My heart aches to have my old life back. I want to do the things I used to do, go the places I used to go, drive for hours and be with people. I can still do sostorenoiseme of these things. However; with each “adventure” I have to weigh the consequences. Take for example a simple trip to that mega superstore that we all hate but seem to flock back to. For me the confusion begins the minute I exit the car. Walk through the sliding doors someone’s collecting carts and jamming them together with a clatter, clatter, bang, bang. A child is screaming, a couple fighting, someone stocking shelves, person in front of me blocking the aisle while on her cell talking about an affair. Noise, noise everywhere! Voices become amplified as though I am in a cave. Concentrate, just follow the list. Out of dog treats – pick a different one. Moved the tuna – track it down. Chicken won’t be done for 30 minutes – what else can I get for dinner. That means redoing the menu. OK, what do I need? Noise everywhere, baby crying, kids running, people talking, carts banging. Aisles are closing in. Someone I know, oh help! Talking fast – I hear them, but the words are not connecting. Boxes on the floor, carts in the pathway, chatter, noise – chaos! Whew! Finally done. Double-check the list. Go to the checkout – one lane open, 8 people in line. Noise intensifying – coming from every angle. Can’t think, getting stressed, sounds like everyone is speaking through a boom box. Do they know how loud they are? Need to get out of here! The outcome of an adventure to me often results in such mental fatigue that it takes me days to come out of the fog. The one little outing that others take for granted, is often a tremendous undertaking for me. So yes, please continue to invite us to participate in events; but understand there are times the answer has to be no and there are times we will say yes and at the last minute can’t make it. This is my life and Roy & I are making the best of every day – some times that means staying home is the best option.

Love & Laughter,

Laurie

I am so honored, my friend Gene Suchma (another PWD) drew an illustration to go with my post!  Thank you Gene!  Visit more of Gene’s art work at http://cartoonsandfineart.com

Written By Laurie Scherrer

© Copyright 2014 Laurie Scherrer

“Oh God – Why Me?”

Before getting diagnosed with dementia I would answer philosophical questions with pat biblical answers – questions such as why God allows suffering in the world. Now I see some of these questions in a whole new light.
The questions are no longer philosophical – – they are real. Why did God allow ME to suffer with dementia at only 55? Why did He do this to my family? How can He say He loves me yet allow me to suffer so much when He could have prevented it? I don’t want clichés or religious sounding answers.
Through my challenges and doubts, I have come to realize a few truths.
1. Our life is just a speck of light in eternity. So the pain I feel now doesn’t even amount to a pimple in the scope of the world and eternity.
2. God sent His Holy Spirit to comfort me. He said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” – that is showing He loves me. The Holy Spirit is not answering the burning why questions in a way I want them answered but He is comforting my soul. He has opened my eyes to see the world & people in a different way. I have experienced a new relationship with God, my husband, my family, and the beauty that surrounds me. Through dementia chat groups, I have experienced compassion with virtual friends that I never thought possible. To me, FB was a waste of time … now it is my support line.
IMG_0539IMG_0542

How long has that Albino bird lived in our backyard? Maybe it just came, or maybe it’s been there for years and I never saw it? Another rare bird came for a short visit, a spotted fawn walked within 6 feet of me, two kinds of Hummingbirds, beautiful butterflies, an exotic bug – so many new things. Were they always here?

3. On this side of eternity I will never be able to answer why, but I do know God will sustain me through it. He will give me new beauty and love – as long as I am willing to look through His eyes. I try to find something to be thankful for everyday – something new.
4. There are two ways to ask “Oh God Why Me?” Why did God surround me with so much love & beauty? Why did He give me such a loving family? Why does He comfort me? As I look at all God has blessed me with in life, with a thankful heart I ask “Oh God Why Me” – what have I done to deserve this? “Oh God Why Me” really depends on the attitude that I want to portray in life. I choose to be joyful and thankful.

Written By Laurie Scherrer