Posts Tagged ‘Alzheimer’s’

Humming and Singing: A Daughter’s Journal

Posted on July 29th, 2015 by karen

Marianne Whitman


by Beth Whitman

Throughout my life, routine daily activities have been accompanied by the music of my mother’s singing and humming. Sometimes her humming was under her breath and sometimes she would be singing a song in her clear and beautiful soprano voice. There are many songs I know simply because Mom has sung them throughout my life.

Du Du Liecht Mir Mir Hertzen
Du, du Liecht Mir Mit Zin.
Du, do mein mir
Da daa, d da da, d daa.

I don’t think Mom ever sang the end of that song. It always devolved into da, da, da.

Some of the songs I know because Mom introduced them to us in other ways. The Swingle Singers was a group that Mom was crazy about when we were growing up. She had a number of their albums and often played them, but her favorite song of theirs was “Bach’s Prelude Chorale.” When she was particularly happy, she would often hum the Prelude Chorale.

do DOO . . .  doobie doobie doobie doobie doobie doo,
Doobie doobie doobie doobie doobie do DOO.

And then there were the old standards from the Gilbert and Sullivan musicals from the days when Mom was in the orchestra pit. She played the viola, and wherever we lived, Mom was a member of the local orchestra or played in string quartets with other musicians she met through the orchestra. I used to spend hours after school in the empty auditoriums listening to the cast rehearse.

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The Still Moving Story Of “Still Alice”

Posted on February 11th, 2015 by karen

Still Alice Movie Poster

by Kim Keller

I was so excited to go to the movies last Saturday to see Still Alice, the acclaimed adaptation of Lisa Genova’s wonderful debut novel of the same name from 2007, one of my all-time favorite books. And I wasn’t remotely disappointed.

Still Alice is an eye-opening and heartbreaking story about Alice Howland, movingly portrayed by Julianne Moore. Alice is a world-renowned linguistics professor, teaching at an Ivy League university and lecturing all around the world. She is in a seemingly happy marriage, with an attentive husband (played by Alec Baldwin) and three grown children. In other words, Alice is in the prime of her life, until small uncharacteristic memory lapses start to happen.

It begins with brief little moments, like forgetting what she’s about to say or overlooking an appointment. Then one day it escalates. Alice suddenly becomes disoriented while she’s jogging and can’t find her way back home. After the episode has passed, Alice realizes that she had been “lost” right smack in the center of the college campus where she has taught for years. The experience leaves her so shaken and scared that she knows she needs medical intervention. But nothing prepares her for the diagnosis she receives: early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

I know it may seem hard to imagine loving a movie about someone who is, in effect, losing her mind. It is painful to watch Alice despair as she falls deeper into the grasp of Alzheimer’s indignities. We watch her struggle to fight off the advances of the disease, and her attempt to maintain as much of her life and identity as she possibly can. She uses her cell phone alarms to help her manage her day, and she becomes consumed with memory games. One night as Alice is cooking dinner, we watch her write three words on a little chalkboard in her kitchen. After she writes down the words, she covers them up, sets the timer for five minutes, and walks away to continue making dinner. When the timer goes off, she walks back over to the chalkboard trying to recount those three words, challenging her memory as she uncovers the board. Then she erases the words and quickly writes down three more. Back and forth, back and forth, she goes.

But even with all the heartache, Still Alice is equal parts intrigue, inspiration and fascination. I recognize that fascination might seem like an odd word to use here, but both the film and book allow the viewer and reader the unusual perspective of experiencing the disease from Alice’s point of view. Usually Alzheimer’s is described by medical professionals or by caregivers, but this is Alice’s story, and she gives us a uniquely intimate seat.

I believe the movie strikes a chord because so many people fear what every little memory lapses might mean as they age. I found myself playing the memory games right along with Alice, and I was actually relieved when I got the answers right.

Although Alice needs to relinquish her university position, she nonetheless teaches us all a few valuable lessons about life. She shows us the importance of living in the moment — even after most of her memories and her identity have slipped away, we can see the joy she feels holding her newborn grandchild.

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The Wonderful Year: A Daughter’s Journal

Posted on September 10th, 2013 by karen
Marianne and Beth Whitman, circa 1977

Marianne and Beth Whitman, circa 1977


by Beth Whitman

In actuality, it was more than a year. I’m not sure how much more than a year, but that’s irrelevant.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is a little like living in the movie Groundhog Day. It is the same thing, over and over. There are little shifts, little realizations, little connections made, and sometimes huge acts of desperation and frustration. But every day the reset button is pushed, and you start it all over again.

With my mom, the visible evidence of the reset button was her ritual response to me whenever I did something for her.

“You’re wonderful!” she would say.

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The Dance: A Daughter’s Journal

Posted on February 5th, 2013 by karen

by Beth Whitman

It started innocently enough. The book was sitting on the bookshelf. One of many that Mom would pull out, look through, and sometimes read aloud from. She had been a librarian in her younger years, and she loved having books around her, even if she wasn’t reading much. As her world started shrinking, she began to focus on a few specific books. For a while a book called Children’s Letters to God was her favorite. The mini vignettes that were the kids’ letters tickled Mom no end. At some point during the day, if the book was within her visual path, she would start thumbing through it, and eventually start reading aloud to anyone in the room:

“Dear God, I read the bible. What does begat mean? Nobody will tell me. Love, Alison.”

And then another one:

“Dear God, On Halloween I am going to wear a Devil’s costume. Is that all right with you? Marnie.”

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Ten Things To Do When You Visit A Person With Dementia

Posted on February 15th, 2011 by karen

goldfish 3

By Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC

My mother had Alzheimer’s.  She was adorable and loving and maintained her personality until she died at almost 95 years of age.  I used to visit her weekly in her home and then, toward the end of her life, in the nursing home.

Managing her care inspired me to become a geriatric care manager myself.  I was already a Master’s level psychotherapist with many years of experience and a strong background in family dynamics.  Additional training in gerontology and volunteer work in the social service department of a fine nursing home enabled me to segue smoothly into my care management practice.

Visits with Mother were a labor of love and sometimes quite a challenge.  As is typical with dementia, Mother eventually lost her ability to initiate, and stay focused on, meaningful conversation, but selected activities helped us stay connected.  The activities that worked best for us changed out of necessity as her Alzheimer’s progressed.

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