Art from the right side

August 17, 2016 § Leave a comment


This is one of the art walls from the regular Wednesday morning class at Insight Memory Care Center, Fairfax, Virginia, masterpieces created with love and passion from participants with disorganized brains at different competency levels.

Insight is my dear husband’s day care center.  Three times a week, his reports of daily activities are vague since he cannot retrieve descriptive words. This center is enriching his life by  giving him opportunities to face each day with enthusiasm and renewed interest. He is always looking ahead.  It is a priceless experience encouraging participants to use the skills and abilities they still possess. They cannot reflect on what’s lost.  Even when he tells me that he was sitting around in the late afternoon and it was ‘boring,’  I am so glad that he is in the company of so many people who care, the staff, and the participants, some just like him, well educated professionals whose life paths have take unexpected turns.

When I learned that the art program was on a day that he did not attend, I changed his schedule. My gratitude goes to the art therapists and instructors who lead art groups everywhere.  My husband says that the artists tell him “what to do next,” one session at a time with no pressure to hurry up and quickly finish.

He wakes me at dawn so there’s no chance that he’ll be late to the Center and miss the class.  At first he was complaining that he was the only ‘boy’ but I think there’s more now among the classmates.  Head down, marker in hand, he’s busy at work.

When participants tire themselves out searching for words, let them find self expression using colored markers and crayons. My dear husband will soon compete with me for wall space in our home! These are his works of art.

Without rational thought, he does not evaluate or criticize.  He is compliant and happiest when he performs on someone else’s cues, meets their expectations.  He is free to just color, enjoy the moment, not judge – something good to write about having a brain in decline. I am so proud of him and often tell him so!  Yesterday he came off the bus that brings him home at the end of the day and with tears in his eyes, he told me how happy he was to see me and that he loves me.  There are blessings on the rough road.







Flushing – taken for granted

August 17, 2016 § 2 Comments


On an airline, we search for the lavatory door ofttimes considering the pilot’s locked door. We have to determine whether it is available and look at the door opener gismo hoping to intuitively figure out how it works so we won’t be embarrassed by asking for help. 

flushImagine that you have dementia and while feeling the pressure of having to ‘go’, ask yourself what does vacant/occupied mean, how does it work, is it even a door, is it private and will I be surprised or confused by what’s inside.  What is flush or a call button? How do I turn on the water to wash my hands? What to do with soiled toilet paper? Am I hearing an announcement telling me to return to my seat; is it the toilet seat, the one I’m on? Do I know how to get out and where do I go? Am I having an emergency, are we landing  …wait, how do I get rid of the stuff I’m leaving behind???

Flushing, knowing what it is and how to do it is something we take for granted but to my sweet husband, it is another very confusing activity of daily living.  On our recent trip, he returned to his seat and asked me how he gets rid of “it.”  I hadn’t prepared him beforehand, I hadn’t thought of that. He wanted to know what does the flush look like, is it in front or behind him when he’s seated or standing, is it behind the lid and how does he  lower the lid.

He tried to reassure me that there was no problem, this time. Three days later, when he asked if something interesting was on my screen, I said I was writing about flushing, he said “it wasn’t a problem, he flushed the second time and it’s done” meaning that training works! 

Being one step ahead and keeping my loved one safe is a constant learning experience and I should have been the next restroom guest in line.  I worry about a real emergency in the restroom; he could not press a brightly colored button or pull a cord to summon help. 

And a comment about why he needs to use the restroom so often. He gives me a variety of reasons besides the two I already know,  anxiety and obsessiveness.  He must do this for fear that, unknowingly, he will lose it. This  recently happened, could not explain why but it embarrassed him. I understand a little more now.  Flow just comes when you have dementia. It becomes mysterious.  Unlike a child’s discovery of mastery over bodily functions and delight, in dementia there is only loss and sadness. We will work hard to keep it together for dignity and pride.

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