Alzheimer’s and Teddy Mac, The Songaminute Man

by Jan Simpson Benvenuti

Simon ‘Mac’ McDermott did what any good son would do when his father’s aggressive behavior from Alzheimer’s disease seemed impossible to manage. He reached out to the National Dementia Helpline in the UK for guidance. Thankful for the kindness of the woman on the end of the telephone line, Simon turned to Facebook, hoping to raise $100,000 to support the Alzheimer’s Society. Simon had discovered that singing brought “his father back,” his musical memory unaffected after a lifetime spent as a nightclub singer. Nicknamed The Songaminute Man, Teddy Mac knew hundreds of songs by heart. Simon recorded carpool karaoke of the duo singing the old bossa nova hit “Quando, Quando, Quando” and watched his post go viral, reaching 40 million viewers, raising nearly $200,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society.

To keep his dad engaged, Simon posted other videos of his Dad’s favorite songs on Facebook, generating a following inspired by his singing. Decca Records offered Teddy Mac a recording contract, and his first single has just been released, a recording of Frank Sinatra’s, “You Make Me Feel So Young.” Follow this story on their Facebook page and consider purchasing Teddy Mac’s single. All proceeds will be split between the Alzheimer’s Society and Teddy Mac. Let’s insure that the family has enough resources to support him along his journey with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Listen, enjoy, and donate.

c2016 Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Got Health? Give.

cycling by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Our mission at Circle of Life Partners includes supporting the leaders of non-profit organizations that improve the health and well-being of older people and their families. This summer, many of us plan to walk, run, cycle or golf for a cause; there is no better way to improve our own fitness with friends and family while helping others. Below are links to a few of our favorite events. Feel free to post other local or national events in the comments section or on our Facebook page. We want to support your favorite causes, too.

Most families have someone living with heart disease or cancer, respiratory illnesses, arthritis or diabetes. In August, join the annual Pan-Mass Challenge bike-a-thon. Nationally, check out the Team for Cures events for Multiple Mylenoma; join the Fight for Air Climb in skyscrapers across the country to support the American Lung Association; or ride with Tour de Cure for the American Diabetes Association.

Because half of the caregiving dollars in America are spent supporting someone living with cognitive impairment, walk or ride for the Alzheimer’s Association or join local golfers to support the DKJohnson Foundation. Other neurological illnesses such as Parkinson’s, ALS and Multiple Sclerosis also consume caregiving resources and benefit from our engagement. Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Funds from that campaign helped scientists identify NEK1, a gene that may cause the disease, so your support to these, and other campaigns, matters.

Mental illness afflicts millions of Americans and NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is among the organizations that provide ongoing support and guidance to families. Join one of the NAMI Walks and let’s make mental health an equal priority for all.

To your health!

c2016 Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Joys of Dementia

by Jan Simpson Benvenuti

“Wouldn’t it be better if your mother died?” a friend asked over tea when I mentioned that my mother had Alzheimer’s disease. Too stunned to reply directly to her remark, I said simply, “Oh no, it’s not that bad,” and I quickly shifted our conversation to her children.

Die? I should have been outraged by her question, yet I learned long ago that many people consider memory loss to be worse than death itself. Would she have asked that question if I told her my mother had breast cancer?

Say the word “dementia” and the world shudders. Tweeters tweet, media moguls opine, and writers of blogs and books rail about the tragedy of memory loss. Yet most people have never actually lived with someone whose memory is fading, and many find the thought unnerving. My mother lived with memory loss for 17 years and I want to emphasize the word lived. For most of those years, she prepared meals, did the laundry, attended family gatherings, and loved her grandchildren. When my father passed away, one sister and I took her into our homes, concerned that she should not live alone.  During that time, I came to appreciate the benefits of not remembering, of forgetting the day-to-day indignities of aging, of living in the moment.

At the risk of offending your sensibilities, below is a list of five joys of having dementia.

1) You get to live in the moment again, just as you did as a child. Rain and snow, falling leaves and lightning, the best of mother nature becomes a source of wonder and delight. Do you recall when you measured time by the weather and the season and not the clock? Dementia returns you to that season of life.

2) Young children adore you because you’ll watch them play and perform with joy. My daughter and her friends were five when her Nana came to live with us. I still recall one Sunday afternoon when the girls, bejeweled and dressed with boas, tiaras, dresses and bangles, performed The Hungry Caterpillar over and over and over again. Each time my mother enjoyed the performance with fresh eyes.

3) You’ll forget the rules of life and break them. Eat dessert before dinner, why not?

4) You may forget the loss of your loved ones. After 59 years of marriage, my mother should have grieved for a year or more after my father’s passing. But, she forgot he died. She didn’t forget him, of course, she just forgot that he had passed away. “Does Bob know that I’m here?” she would ask. “Yes,” I’d lie, and we’d resume our activities for the day.

5) You’ll remind your adult children just by your physical presence to take care of their health, appreciate their loved ones, enjoy every moment of life, and not sweat the small stuff.

Dementia may rob your older relatives of memories, but it provides the family an opportunity to celebrate your time with them and convey important family values to your children. One Sunday I planned a special family dinner to celebrate my mother’s birthday. “Why are we celebrating her birthday?” my 12 year-old son complained. “It’s stupid, she won’t remember it.”  “Really?” I replied, “tell me what you remember about your first birthday party.”  He stopped complaining.

My son was right, my mother would not remember her party. But he would, and I would, too. It was our last celebration with her.

How do you enjoy time with your relatives who are growing forgetful? Here are 101 activities you may want to try.

I know, first-hand, the chaos that this disease causes for the elder and their extended family. Yet I refute the belief that those living with dementia have little to teach us in their last years. My mother, like many others, retained cognition through the end of her life using strategies I describe in Don’t Give Up on Me! Consider purchasing a copy through Circle of Life Partners; all proceeds are donated to support elders and their families.

©2015 Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

Cognitive Changes in Healthy Aging Adults

by Joan DiGiovanni and Jan Simpson

 

Joan:After spending time with an elderly adult, have you ever wondered if that perhaps he or she is showing signs of dementia? How do you know if it is a form of dementia or just a sign of the normal aging process?

I recently attended a lecture at Boston College given by Prof. Elizabeth Kensinger from their Psychology Department. The lecture focused on memory changes in healthy aging adults and the neurological changes in the brain that occur. The 3 most common cognitive changes in healthy seniors include:

1. The speed of mental processing: as we age, the speed that we absorb and process information declines. (It’s important to realize, however, that given extra time, seniors can process information about as well as younger people.)

2. Slower response in storing and recalling new information. This is often observed when an older individual, even those in middle age, try to learn to play the piano or learn to speak a new language.

3. Decline in reaction time especially when it comes to complex choices. Implications with certain tasks such as driving a car or cooking on a hot stove can become significant.

The changes listed here are normal to the healthy aging process; they are gradual and typically do not interfere with daily tasks. Dementia, on the other hand, is not a normal part of aging. A proper diagnosis is critical as there are many ailments that look like dementia but are not; start with a thorough physical exam. Often, forgetfulness is simply a result of new medication — in fact, the most common form of reversible dementia is a side effect from meds. With the help of a general practitioner, proper diagnosis can be made.

Jan: Yes, but if one is concerned, your parent or older loved one should be tested for potential memory impairment.  My 79-year-old father was prescribed a medication that affected his cognition: he began to hallucinate. Alarmed that this might be the start of his cognitive decline, my sister, a learning specialist, made arrangements for him to be evaluated by a neuropsychologist.  Physicians typically focus first on finding an organic cause of  memory loss, such as a stroke; a neuropsychologist, on the other hand, tests for memory, concentration, reasoning, and language function. Read more here. By the time my dad was evaluated, his medication had been changed and he behaved normally. We went ahead with the evaluation anyway and was comforted by the report: all was well.

How do you find a  neuropsychologist?  Ask a physician for a referral to a neuropsychologist, a memory clinic,  or a geriatric psychiatrist who can arrange for an assessment. (Note: a neuropsychologist is different than a neurologist; the former is a phD, the latter an M.D.) A list of memory clinics in the United States may be found here. Or, call the help line at the Alzheimer’s Association. Do not hesitate to have your loved one assessed. At the age of 65, the prevalence of dementia is just 5-7 percent and only rises to approximately 40 percent by the age of 90. My father’s test results gave us the peace of mind we needed to keep him and my mother at home.

 

Have you had any experience with memory loss in your loved ones?  Let us know in the comments section.

©Circle of Life Partners™