Last week I attended an all day event in Seattle, “Dementia, Art and Legacy,” put on by the Frye Museum and wonderful national US organization, Creative Aging. Those of us there included a many healthcare workers but also caregivers and others of us who want to know more about how to use what we do to better support our loved ones and others to enjoy their lives and recover a sense of self.
Many of you know that I have a friend, Norma-Jean, who has early-stage Alzheimer’s and that she’s in a dramatic clinical trial testing the degree to which deep brain stimulation, applied through electrodes in her brain, will help improve her memory or, at least, stave off further loss. It’s up and down as you are maybe learning from the series of articles I’ve been writing about her that are in the Vancouver Courier. I am one of roughly 25 volunteers who spend time with NJ (our short form for her name) doing things like walking with her, singing, some give her physical therapy, etc. I started out helping her tell stories about her early life because storytelling is known to be good for our brains. NJ enjoyed telling those stories but not when/if she is asked to recall any specific incidents. And, although she’s a good writer and a good storyteller, leaving her with the kind of writing task we do in guided autobiography wasn’t working. She promptly forgot about it which means the burden of remembering is put on her husband/caregiver, Nathan, and Nathan is already juggling two full-time jobs–his work and Norma-Jean. He very much wants NJ to write her stories down, but his plate is full. Continue reading