Thursday, July 11, 2013


Teachers often say they are the ones who learn the most from preparing a lesson. Writers can say the same when they research a topic for a book.
I researched dementia while writing "The Dragons of Alsace Farm" because we were dealing with those issues in the family. My research came too late to help with some issues, but it did provide insight and assistance in many ways. One was a nudge to pull out the old photos and sit down with Mom. 
I had read some interesting pieces on the power of music, and I spoke with a dementia-trained caregiver who explained the great trigger clothing and other belongings can be. I know from personal experience that certain items become "buoys" by which these patients "navigate" when anxiety makes them overly confused. The photos were amazing
She had been extremely agitated and angry the previous night, and she needed to be calm the next day. Sleep helped, but the photos maintained that calm.
Her expressions shifted from blank, to wonder, to recognition as she studied each photo. Sometimes names came, but when names remained vague, she became frustrated and embarrassed, and we'd focus on things other than the faces--clothes, cars, the house in the background, anything. Ideas and stories began to flow, some were completely unrelated to the photo, but it was all golden. I kept encouraging her and thanking her for teaching me so much. That was perhaps the best thing for her. She was so proud, and she seemed to sit straighter and walk with a surer gait after our gab session, as if she had been restored. It was wonderful. She filled in holes in our genealogy that day that she hadn't been able to provide on previous days, and most importantly, the exercise calmed her, made her feel connected, and brought her joy. 
So "Dragons" was actually intended to bless me. And let me suggest that if time has passed since you last sat down with an aging loved one and those old family pics, pull them down and spend an hour reliving old memories with them. If your experience is like mine, it will heal you both.

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