Preserving Skills in People Living With Dementia

Dementia with Dignity book

Focus on the skills remaining is the lesson from Judy Cornish.


Can caregiving be less frustrating, less stressful?  Working with the skills our loved one retains we could achieve that goal. Judy Cornish, author of Dementia With Dignity talks to us about how to preserve skills in our loved ones.

For example, expecting our person use rational thought long after it’s gone is common. As a result, we cause stress and frustration. To clarify this, think how often you’ve explained what you need done only to have to explain it again. It’s absolutely frustrating! Instead, by focusing on intuitive thought processes we can create a situation to get what we need accomplished.

For example, a common struggle for caregivers is showering. Think about how many steps are involved in the process. How many times is the action paused while waiting for something to happen? Even short pauses in activity allow their mind to lose focus.  As a result, we get resistance to showering.

On the other hand, focusing on their intuitive thought we setup a situation for them to “just do” what we want. For example, a support group member found a no fuss way to get her Mom to shower. Her first step was to get everything ready and turn the water on. Meanwhile, as the water warmed up, she’d help her Mom to the bathroom for toileting. As a result  hearing the running shower, Mom would naturally get in as she did prior to her Alzheimer’s.

Automatic Thinking Scripts

When we find ourselves doing a task without consciously thinking about it we are using intuitive thought. Some people call this muscle memory. Others call it an automatic thinking script. I’ve brewed tea so often in my kitchen I don’t need to think about the steps involved. Repetition brings competency. As long as there are no alterations in this process, we function just fine.

It is not good for those of us with healthy brains to be on auto-pilot except when doing mundane things. However, it’s critically valuable to people experiencing dementia because they cannot rely on memory to know where to look for coffee filters or socks. They don’t have rational thought to tell them that underwear goes on before pants once memory fails.

Intuitive versus rational thinking is the conversation in this episode. You will learn a lot and certainly be interested in Judy’s books. You can find them on Amazon or at her website where you can also check out her blog.

If you need a refresher on what living with dementia is like make sure to check out these past episodes.

Living With Dementia Part 1

Living With Dementia Part 2




Alive Inside -How Music Touches the Soul

Alive Inside in action

Alive Inside is a program that brings music to those in the late stages of Alzheimer’s.


Alive Inside is a program that brings music to people living in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. Music reminds us that we are vibratory beings.  Music can bring out memories long thought forgotten because of Alzheimer’s. Hearing familiar tunes can reawaken the mind & allow someone to engage again.

When someone you love struggles with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s or another form of cognitive or physical impairment, it can be a tremendous challenge to communicate and find ways to help them rediscover the world.

A personalized playlist can help you bridge that gap and help to reconnect with one another. Creating a personalized playlist takes some detective work, but it’s fun, so dive right in!  Each individuals response is unique, and your loved ones ability to benefit from music will depend in a large part on the particulars of his or her cognitive impairment .  But, chances are good that she or he will find more pleasure in life once again. Additionally, you will regain a peaceful and relaxing way to renew your relationship.

Creating a personalized playlist can be easy if you’re able to ask your loved one about their favorite music. If that isn’t an option then you’ll have to become a detective. If you’re like me, you’d assume that the best way achieve this goal would be to pick songs from their particular era. That didn’t work AT ALL with Mom but after conducting some internal sleuthing, I did come up with a handful of songs she did connect with.

Steps for Creating A Personalized Playlist

Here’s how I started. First, I vividly remember some songs that I heard when visiting my maternal grandmother. It wasn’t a huge leap to guess that if Moms mom liked these songs, Mom might as well. This was especially easy to assume since I enjoy them and still recall the words. Once I found those on iTunes (Spotify works too) I used the recommendation function to search for other songs.

All the songs I remembered had a similar style so my final step was to go to the years she was in high school and listen for other songs in that same style. You can see the results here —> Short dancing clip.

More ways to enjoy time with your loved one


Dear Clueless – Two Caregivers Sharing Knowledge

Caregivers have to deal with many clueless people, including themselves.

Author Sandy Seville and I talk about being clueless in our caregiving roles & how to get a clue. Sandys’ family has seen a lot of Alzheimer’s so it wasn’t a surprise to her when it also afflicted her Mom.  Her Mom was a bartender and had worked in the same bar forever. Sandy begged her not to retire because she knew retirement was the beginning of the end for her aunt.  Being social is important for good brain health and for many people retirement shrinks their life.

Loners are losers is a phrase that Sandy uses to describe what generally happens to older people who don’t remain social. If you’re a loner it’s likely you’ll also lose cognitive health. Having a purpose in life is something we all need to keep our minds healthy.

This episode is mostly two caregivers sharing their journeys and struggles.However, in this conversation there are a lot of gems of information to be had. Sandy shared her wisdom just as she shared it in her book, with humor and acceptance.

The primary caregiver receives the least amount of cooperation from the person with dementia. The caregiving journey can be short or long.  Even a quick decline with Alzheimer’s can feel like a long journey. Being clueless about how to provide the kind of care you’d want is a big reason why.

Why This Book & Podcast?

Dear Clueless is a book for Alzheimer’s caregivers. You’ll need it (according to Sandy). Becoming a good caregiver requires us to read everything we can get our hands on. Talking to other caregivers, both those on the journey and those whose journey has ended. The only way to avoid being a clueless caregiver is to become an informed caregiver.

Listening to this conversation is highly recommended for all caregivers. There’s a lot of laughs, inspiration and most of all, hope. Hope that you will survive and some caregivers can even thrive.

Find Dear Clueless Here

Understanding What It’s Like to Live With Dementia

Art Therapy for Older Adults

Art Therapy for Older Adults

Art Therapy is one avenue to try to give your loved one some enjoyment.

Participating in art therapy gives people of every age many benefits. They’re able to become more self-aware, improve their social skills, decrease anxiety and boost their self-esteem.  Utilizing art to can enable nonverbal and minimally verbal seniors to communicate.  Most importantly, art projects can create a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Art can provide the person with dementia — as well as caregivers — an opportunity for self-expression and enjoyment. To clarify, art is fun and easy therefore you should give it a try!

Planning an art activity for someone with middle- to late-stage Alzheimer’s, it is helpful to keep these tips in mind:

  • Keeping the project on an adult level. Avoid anything that might be demeaning or seem childlike.
  • Building conversation into the project. Provide encouragement, discuss what the person is creating or reminiscence.
  • Helping the person begin the activity. If the person is painting, you may need to start the brush movement. Mostly, projects should only require basic instruction and assistance.
  • Use safe materials; avoiding toxic substances and sharp tools.
  • Allowing plenty of time, keeping in mind that the person doesn’t have to finish the project in one sitting.
Project Ideas

Many people living with dementia have trouble getting started. In my Mom’s case her visual processing isn’t good and has a hard time determining inside and outside of lines. Additionally, she’s always afraid she’ll “do it wrong”. This is an avoidance statement so I had Erin give us some project suggestions for people in the later stages of the disease.

Tracing their hand, or tracing your hand and theirs touching is sweet. Adding lines, color or whatever you’d like can come next.  Leaf rubbings was another suggestion so I tried it with Mom. It was hard to see the leaves consequently I think the project was a bit difficult.  It might be easier now that we’re farther into the year. There weren’t a lot of leaves the day we went walking in the park. I’ll try again, however, I think Mom may be past creating art.  Keeping an “art journal” with pretty pieces of nature is a simple enough. It allows you to connect with nature & can house memories to look back on in the winter months. This is something I’m planning on doing with Mom since she’s not very comfortable actually creating art.

Building things out of boxes is a suggestion she had for men who aren’t into crafting. Keeping in mind that it’s the pleasure that’s important, don’t dismiss any art as too “girlie”. Letting each person decide for themselves is equally important.

In short, if you’re looking to help your person engage in joyful experiences, simple art projects might be just thing.

Erin Partridge & The Elder Care Alliance

Connecting Through Art Episode

Bonus – Alzheimer’s Cruise

Relax and learn on this unique Alzheimer’s cruise for caregivers & their family .


Why take an Alzheimer’s cruise? First of all, you learn to make positive shifts in your life while creating beautiful memories with your family. Taking the “Connecting Circles of Care & Building Bridges of Hope” cruise that’s what you’ll get. Sharing their stories with the cruisers is a huge line up of speakers speaking from all aspects of living with dementia .

Joining the inaugural sailing was past guest, Marianne Sciucco author of Blue Hydrangeas. (You can check out her episode here). She jumped online to fill in all of us on everything we can expect for next years cruise!

Speaker List

The cruise keynote speaker  was Jeff Boroghoff. Jeff is living with and fighting the war on Alzheimer’s. Putting together the cruise was Lisa Marie Chirico, also a nursing home navigator coach. Speaking on “Resilience strategies & what she wish she’d know when she was a caregiver was her other contribution.

Additionally, there was Daniel J. Hutcherson, a financial gerontologist & 20 year Wall Street veteran. He spoke on “The Six Domains of Financial Exploitation: Protecting Your Money and Your Independence.” Certainly a class everyone should take.

Holding down the job I’d like was Peter Maeck, a writer, photographer, speaker and teacher. Peter taught a class on “Remembrance of Things Present: Making Peace with Dementia”.

Providing a class we all need was Christy Turner, Founder of Dementia Sherpa. Teaching everyone how to be the “Best Darn Dementia Care Partner You Can Be”. Even when you’re feeling warn out. For that reason, I’m going to see if I can get her as a guest for the show.

Continuing on was Gene Saunders, the founder & CEO of Project Lifesaver International. Informing  the attendees on how to “Protect Your Loved One and Provide the Family with Peace of Mind.”

Additionally There Were Three More Speakers

Explaining how three daughters of dementia started AlzAuthors was co-founder Marianne Sciucco. AlzAuthors is a global community of writers sharing their dementia stories. Notably they now have over 200 member authors.

Award winning film producer & co-owner of Backfin Media Daphne Glover-Ferrier. She screened their film; “Spent – The Hidden Cost of Dementia.”  Finally, Loretta Anderson, an independent healthcare researcher, speaking on lifestyle interventions in Alzheimer’s disease and healthy brain aging.

Above all, causing with AlzTropics will make your journey with dementia just a little bit easier. Certainly, you’ll want to add this to your bucket list.


Dementia Caregivers, Join Us in 2020!

Dementia Caregivers, Join Us in 2020 For Our New 7-Day Retreat Experience With Your Family

Nursinghomeology (Facebook)

AlzCruiseTropics (Twitter)

Forgetfulness or Lost Language?

Maybe it’s lost language not forgetting you.

Has Mom forgotten I’m her daughter ?  Or, has she lost the language skills to define our relationship? Certainly, people with Alzheimer’s do tend to forget us. Even more interesting, I’ve never had an encounter where they are afraid of or indifferent to me.  This would seem to indicate that they haven’t truly forgotten me but that they can no longer communicate the same way.

Author & guest Elaine C. Pereira joined me on the podcast to talk about this theory. In preparation for our talk I asked my sister if Mom remembers her. Surprisingly, she does. In contrast I can’t remember the last time Mom used my name.

Theorizing on that disparity in Moms memory brought me to one conclusion. Because of my significant weight loss in the past 6 years, I do not think that I look like the person Mom remembers as Jennifer. In contrast my sister hasn’t changed all that much in the past decade (she’s younger). Certainly this lack of visual clue to our relationship could be a reason she thinks I’m her friend.

Pointing out that language is neurologically complicated, Elaine explained how caregivers can guide their loved one through conversations. Asking, “do you remember” is setting them up for failure. Dodging an answer is one of Moms coping skills. When the neurologist asked questions she did everything she could not to have to answer.

Achieving Positive Communication

Learning how to guide our loved one through their lack of language skills, learning how to lower our expectations is what Elaine teaches.  Getting positive communication hinges on how well we set them up to have a conversation. It’s something I’ve been working on with my Mom but it’s still a work in progress.

Learning to communicate on an intuitive level is also something I’ve been working on. Stay tuned for personal episodes on how that turns out.


What’s Going on in Their Mind?

I Will Never Forget on Amazon