Blog Purpose

The purpose of this blog is to be a guide for those who read it. It is not meant to be a medical or mental health resource, or diagnostic guide, but to discuss moments of the dementia journey. Not everything will be founded in scientific research, but all will be based on experience, both that of my own and of those I work with who have given me permission to share their story on this public platform. This blog is to serve as a discussion starter, and place to develop our shared story. If you have questions about anything I have posted, or find an inaccuracy, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. The opinions and stories are my own unless otherwise stated. Should something be referenced you will find the proper citation at the bottom of that particular post.

I don’t often have guest authors, however, if you would like to write a post for consideration I will gladly consider your submission. If you would like to share your story of dementia please consider writing a letter for the Dementia Letters Project. You may submit your letter by emailing dementialettersproject@gmail.com.

Autumn. New Beginnings. Seeking Depth.

I remember a time when saying, Autumn was your favorite season, resulted in people looking at you like you had something on your face. It was the season people didn’t want to see arrive. Yet now, it feels like EVERYONE loves the season.

For me, it is a time of new beginnings, a time for a different kind of beauty to fill our days, the holidays are growing closer, and my red-headed, fair Celtic skin self no longer has to worry about frying like a crisp every time I step foot outdoors. Growing up, it meant that even though I was not all that excited about school starting, there was a chance to begin again. I feel like the world needs that same chance right now. We need to begin again.

This past summer, I found myself busier than I anticipated. My summer started with a trip to Washington D.C. to attend the GIVEN Forum, a Catholic women’s leadership forum, that was not only my first trip since March of 2020 but also the start of a year-long journey to make the Hem of Christ its own stand-alone ministry via the formation of a non-profit. Arriving home from GIVEN, I learned that I was an OSV Innovation Semi-Finalist that would give my ministry an extra boost. It was an exciting, and an incredible amount of work. A new beginning much like the autumn season. It was the summer of ministry, of building something new.

In the midst of all of this, I started to question this blog and what it means. You may remember a few weeks back when I addressed this slightly. This blog has become almost journal-like, and it has turned out to be less academic and more narrative. When I started asking people I know who read this blog (Thanks to you!) if they would like to see me shift gears in the type of information I present and how I present it, I often got a quick NO! I was told this blog humanized their journey, and was a bit of a respite. I was informed that on the internet filled with medical and academic jargon, it is nice to hear the humanity. It was shared with me that this blog gave comfort and a sense of community simply by understanding that the person behind the screen is a fellow sojourner on the dementia journey.

So, with that in mind, we start a new season with a new beginning. This blog will not change drastically and will remain the journalistic narrative it has become, but I do plan on throwing in a few more academic-type posts. I enjoy academic style writing, and it has been too long since I did anything significant. If we are to see a transformation in our world we must work to blend the medical, academic, artistic, clinical, and human spirit. If you have any topics you wish to see me cover please comment below or send me an email.

Until next time, Happy Autumn! Now, go enjoy each moment of beauty this season has to offer.

Apple Season!

It’s Apple Season! 

A time for that idyllic apple orchard photoshoot, apple pie, applesauce, apple crumble, apple cider, and well, just sitting down with some good old eating apples. Memories flood my mind of times of heading over to Star Orchard with my grandma and my parents. Of running into my grandmother’s and being filled with excitement when I would see the “apple saucepan” on the stove. The first apple pie I made right after moving to New York, of heading out of the city with friends to get away, pick some apples, and enjoy spending time together. 

Oh, it is not that apple season that you are referencing? Okay. 

As some may be aware, September is Apple season in the tech world. It is a time when the latest operating system is released, typically the latest iPhone is announced, and other tech news comes from that company, Apple. It has me thinking about the various types of conversations we have regarding tech and dementia. It seems the developers have one idea, the care partners have theirs, and the individuals living with dementia have their own various needs, desires, and even relationships to technology. Those of us observing the dynamic can open up the invitation to using tech in powerful ways, but we must never force it on anyone. 

So what is the relationship between tech and dementia? In short, and sort of vague answer, the overlap is anything that has become useful and accepted. That is to say, if someone with dementia wanted to have the latest and greatest and enjoyed having it in their lives with all the apps and programs, then wonderful, but if someone didn’t want any of it in or near them, that is also great. Tech should never be another burden, source of confusion or stress, or replacement for care. Let me state that last one again, the technology of any kind should NEVER be a replacement for care or personal connection. It should also NEVER be seen as something that can one day extend our life in that sci-fi sort of way. Now, what can it be? It can be a beautiful tool. It can be a way to connect. It can be a source of independence. It can bring comfort and safety. It can be a tool used to take action. 

This last year and a half have shown us how lonely and isolating life can be, and for many living with dementia and their care partners, this is a full-time reality, pandemic or not. But, it doesn’t have to be. And while this is a topic all on its own, we should recognize the power technology can have to connect each other when in-person visits are not possible for any number of reasons. A computer, Apple TV, or iPad can become the tools we use to connect.

We never want to lose our independence. But sometimes life has a different plan, and we need to rely more and more on outside sources. The apps we use can guide us, be it a list of reminders, alarms, or various alerts, can help us keep our appointments, make sure we get a birthday card out to a loved one, and it can be a place to connect with others no longer in our community. 

Prayer apps can help us remain connected to our community of faith and not feel so alone if we are accustomed to praying in groups, the Relevant Radio app, Hallow and Catholify are some of my favorites, but I am sure that there are many other options for people of all faith traditions. 

Apple watches, Homepods, and devices like Alexa can help tell us the time, turn on lights, call our children, or even call for help (you must remember to enable this feature) from anywhere in our home. 

The Apple TV and other Smart TV or TV devices can connect us to the old movies we love, and maybe introduce us to something new without the need for a DVD player. 

As time goes on, the operating system you use and its related hardware is less about joining a club and more about personal preference as the tech companies, for the most part, are willing to cross-platform lines and talk to each other. And regardless of what it might look like, you don’t need to upgrade every year. It can appear that way, and that makes it a slightly daunting (and expensive) experience. You don’t need to upgrade every year. Not even every other year or every 3 years. 

It is apple season, and I am sitting here on my 8-year-old MacBook Pro with my 6-year-old iPhone, dreaming of apple pie, and grateful for all the ways these two devices have connected me over the years to others and information. It never replaced in-person connection and community but has been a tool to enhance it when in-person was not possible. I am also thinking about all the ways technology companies have failed us. Or maybe don’t understand the various needs of those on the dementia journey. 

Here are some things I wish Apple (and other computer and software companies would recognize.) They speak often about accessibility, and there is room for improvement.

  1. We don’t want our tech to be a care replacement, but a care assistant. 
  2. 2-factor authentication may be great for security, but it can be a problem when trying to assist a loved one remotely, and quite uncomfortable when a professional care partner is helping with the device. 
  3. Care Partners want to be able to have full remote access to their loved one’s tech, not just a desktop computer. There has to be some safe, secure, and creative answer to this problem. 
  4. Some people would like to have a version of iOS that could allow for a simplified experience. Maybe something with a swipe of a toggle that can then be locked, that would make sure unused native apps are removed, and a streamlined experience activated. Apple does a decent job with low vision but needs to expand this mindset. 
  5. When developing operating systems, accessibility programs, and new apps, have those living with dementia included in the beta market. This is one I hear almost monthly!

For those thinking about using tech in dementia care, here are some thoughts I have that have been successful in the past.

  1. Only include tech that your loved one wants to use. If they want a phone but not an Apple Watch, then don’t get them a smartwatch.
  2. While Apple products tend to be more user-friendly for those living with dementia, if someone wants a Microsoft product because that is what they used the last decades of their career, then purchase the tech that supports the platforms they already know. 
  3. Do a yearly or even monthly tech assessment. Think about what is being used, not used, what has caused problems, what has alleviated problems. Feel free to change apps or even the devices themselves that you use. 
  4. If you think it is going to be too much of a burden to introduce tech into care, then move on. No need to force it! 
  5. Timing is everything. What might have been successfully introduced last week, may not work this week. If you think something might work, introduce the tech at that moment, not later. The sooner you incorporate it into the care and social plan, the better. 
  6. Don’t feel hurt if it doesn’t work. You tried something new.
  7. You don’t need to upgrade every single year. It is also okay to hold off on updating the operating system for a little bit while you take the time to figure it out yourself on your devices. 
  8. Remember! Age is not an indicator that can allow us to assume someone’s ability to use technology or their attitude towards tech. For example, my grandmother, born in 1922, while she didn’t own a computer, she had an openness to it and was curious about the computer. She had a cell phone. We could have introduced the use of technology into her life if approached with intention. My other grandmother, born in 1933, at the time of her passing in February, was on her 4th computer, had an iPhone, and 2 iPads (a Mini and a large Pro.) She also had a scanner. In the last decade of her career, she used a computer at work. A person’s age is truly just a number when it comes to technology.

It’s apple season! So enjoy a slice of pie. Enjoy the last bit of warm weather with a glass of apple cider in your hand. And, think about ways technology may or may not be a useful element of your care and dementia journey.

Community and Aging – Why We Need It! Pt. 1

As we age, memory is often a topic of discussion. We worry about if what we are going through is normal or something more. Many of us enter a moment of denial and put off going to the doctor to see what is going on. Memory impairment is caused by many things. Stress, low sodium, an illness or infection, all of this can lead to memory loss, yet, we don’t always know the difference between what is normal, temporary, or connected to a form of dementia.

Because of this uncertainty, our routine doctor’s appointments and the observations of friends and family, and even community members become a critical component in making sure we are always living well and full lives. Even as care partners, we must have a community that can help us navigate the care partner journey. This community should be made up of individuals that we trust to tell us when something seems off. Sometimes that takes an outside eye, someone not related to us, to help us see what we can’t and what our family might not tell us.

As we think about what is normal or not in aging I believe that it is important that we look at a few elements of our lives. Movement, Purpose, Stress Level, Social Connection, Diet, and Spiritual Engagement. So, in short, looking at the full person in Mind, Body, and Soul. If you start to see a change in memory in yourself or a loved one think about those categories. Has something changed? Did you recently have a change in diet? Did you go from being a 2-3 walks a day around the neighborhood, to not walking at all? Did your loved one go from praying the rosary every night at 7:00 to not praying at all? Did you suddenly have a change in your social engagements? All of this can be a sign that something is off, especially if it is abrupt, not previously discussed, or explored. It could be set on by a change in routines such as an illness or even a pandemic, but it can also mean that it might be time to explore what is going on in the brain and look into if it is the start of symptoms for one of the many types of Dementia.

Not everyone will experience memory loss as they age. Some will and some won’t. So some things to look out for…

Normal memory loss will not disrupt your life in any significant way. You will still remember how to drive home from the grocery store, be able to learn a new routine or incorporate a new element into an existing routine.
You will be able to complete tasks as you have always done. Paying bills, cleaning the house, preparing a meal, will see no changes.
Taking in new information will not be difficult for you, while it may take a smidge more effort (especially if you are in a period as mentioned above where you might have had a disruption to your sleep or diet, or are in or recovering from an infection or illness) you can learn it and recall it as needed.
Also, things like remembering the name of someone you have not seen in years or where you put your keys, if you run off to the grocery store without your list and cannot remember what you need to purchase, these experiences are also normal.

What is not normal is if there is any memory loss that impacts or disrupts your daily life. Then it could be a sign that something more is going on. It could be a form of dementia.
Dementia itself is not a diagnosis. The diagnosis will be something more specific, such as Lewy Body Dementia, Vascular Dementia, Alzheimer’s. Each form of dementia has its quirks and general progression pattern of symptoms although each person will be unique in their experience. Dementia does not only impact the brain but the body as well. And as a care partner (especially a family care partner) caring for your loved one will likely be both a gift and filled with heavy demands that lead to burnout, and further harm to yourself and possibly your loved one as well.

It is easy as care partners, to give and give and give and be so immersed in the caring role that we don’t recognize when we have gone too long on empty. And, asking for help is sometimes awkward, sometimes difficult, and sometimes feels humiliating. But, if we don’t ask for help, we run the risk of doing more harm than good and causing our health to decline faster and likely more significant than the health of the individual we are caring for each day.

Each person is going to have their limit on what they can do and give while on the care journey. When I am supporting a person who is a care partner I like to say that when you start to see a change in your mood that is the moment you should start to ask for help, don’t wait for it to start to impact your physical health. These changes can be depression, anger, exhaustion, if you are irritated all the time by small things. In these moments start to ask for help. Bring it up with that community you built, your family, your doctor. It is possible that those same elements that could be impacting your memory, are showing themselves in care as well, you are not getting enough sleep, you are coming down with a cold, you are not eating enough, or getting the nutrition you need. Instead of impacting your memory, they are impacting your mood. This is the first step to asking for help, be it from your community circle, or through hiring a professional care team.

It is important that we as care partners live 3-dimensional lives, looking at our physical, mental, spiritual, and social wellbeing. The saying, you can’t pour from an empty cup, rings loudest in care. The time to build a community that can help you through this part of your journey is important. Fill it with people you love, people who can help you mentally, physically, and spiritually. Fill it with people who will be there on your darkest day and your most joyful moment. It is not easy in today’s world to create this community, but it is important!

What Does it Mean to Be An Innovator?

What does it mean to be an innovator? To go out into the unknown and create something that has never been before?

It often means creating something from scratch, with no research, no funding, no team already assembled, and to build, brick by brick, outreach by outreach a better world.

It means to be creative. To push boundaries and explore with only a few anecdotal experiences and a hunch. It means to explore programming, creating new things, and working to build the data needed to prove to the rest of the world there is a need, all of which needs funding and time.

What does it mean to be an innovator? To put out into the deep, to trust in your uniquely given purpose, and to run the race. This race comes with trials and triumphs. It is filled with people who will slam doors in your face and crack open a window for you. It is filled with people who will not see the vision even when it is clearly laid out for them, people who will take the easy path leaving you behind, and people who will be able to take your vision and increase the fruits of that vision 20 fold as they walk into the journey unknown.

Dementia and Faith. Two words that, when said, cause people to run for the hills, even those who are folded into those communities. People are private about their journeys of dementia and faith. This makes it difficult to navigate the research and development of ministries and programs. As someone who is private about my life as well, I understand why people are hesitant to open up. But without this vital connection, funding bodies, even those who are in search of innovators and new ideas, often don’t want to commit to assisting you. And, if we cannot get our own to support the work, it is only by an act of God that work is accomplished. Now, in all blunt and honest reality, the Protestant faiths have it much easier than Catholics. There are so many intricate aspects of our faith tradition that are left untouched by the dementia-friendly church initiative. So many elements are ignored by the new-age spirituality and secularism of our time.

Without community support, and organizations willing to take a risk on your “hunch” and handful of experiences, how does one innovate? When they are not willing to ask the questions or give you time to share those experiences, how do we do the work set before us by God?

Well, first it requires total faith and trust in God’s plan for the work. This can be difficult, feel impossible, and overwhelming at times, especially when that “always a day late and a dollar short” experience has overshadowed you. But trust.

Secondly, keep moving forward, and if God wants it to happen, He will find a way. Yes, everyone has free will that God never interferes with, but being God and all, He already knew what was going to, and what will happen. Our roadmap may have ink runs from our tears, and torn corners from our falls, but God knows what the original map looked like, and He cannot forget it. God has a backup of the map and knows the best way to our destination.

Third, and this is quite possibly the hardest element to accept, is that we don’t live for this life alone. God does not ask us to be successful, simply faithful. Now, He created us for Happiness, Joy, a life full and alive, but nowhere did He ask us to be successful. This can be hard to accept as you might sit and think of all the people you could be serving, all and answered prayers (both for others and yourself) that could occur if only that door had opened or that person or organization took a chance on you. But if we are faithful, prayers will be answered, God will take care of all of us in our multiple and endless needs. We might not be able to bring the Hem of Christ to those we wish to serve, but we can pray for them, and through that, maybe we doing exactly what we are setting out to do.

What does it mean to be an innovator? It means to run the race, to put out into the deep, to not be afraid, and to be faithful to God. It means saying Yes to the Holy Spirit’s callings on your heart, even if no one else wishes to see it. Even when people in your own faith and dementia community turn their backs.

If innovation is in your blood, continue to innovate. If God calls you to a mission, follow that mission until the very end.

A Reflection Paper

I am sitting down to write another blog post, wondering what topic of the thousands of topics I want to talk about might be the best one for this time. I have abandoned the topic of death (which I started back in March) for now, as I need some separation before we dive back in. So, what can I write about that might hold a gem for someone who reads it? I realize this blog, which never set out to be a research or instructional blog, has become my version of a reflection paper. Stories from the journey of dementia. I am feeling separated from that journey more than ever right now. I am not working directly with anyone at this moment, and no one in my family alive right now has dementia. I am on committees and a member of a coalition where I do work in dementia. I record programs and sit on the opposite side of the screen from clients, and it all feels miles away. How can I provide you with value if I cannot, myself, connect with you?

As an art therapy and drama therapy student, I was required to write reflection papers sometimes every day, sometimes every week. We were tasked with writing about our experience of going through a therapeutic process, witnessing a therapy session, or after learning a new method. We also wrote reflection papers after each day of our internship. They were messy papers, and for me, not always exactly what I wanted to say. Knowing my professor would read these papers, I never fully could articulate my thoughts, and I am not sure I was able to convey my true reflection of where I was that day, that week.

The collection of 6 years of education in the creative arts therapies and the reflection papers that accompanied that journey sit in a binder in my closet. They are steps on the journey. For the first time in years, I chose to crack open that binder and read a little bit. I discovered why I was so ambitious (Spiritual ambition to be more accurate) in pursuing the creative arts therapies and dementia. I am reminded of that spark of wonder that occurred when I imagined blending the two worlds. I am brought back the relationships I formed while an intern and the lessons they still carry. I miss that time of my life in some ways. But we move forward.

As I read the pages of this binder, I was reminded of why I am here doing the work I set out to do each day. I am reminded of my purpose that I was blessed to discover at a very young age. I am reminded that while I feel disconnected from those on the receiving end of this blog and the services I provided, as well as from many of my fellow care professionals, we are connected in mission, in the purpose we have, and the dreams we hold for working alongside those living with dementia.

I mentioned back in June that you were to stay tuned about the next steps for the Hem of Christ Ministry, and that will arrive next week. (I ask for your prayers!) And maybe in October, we can continue our exploration of death and daying. But until then, this is my Dementia Letters Project reflection paper. Messy, maybe not exactly what I wanted to say, but a moment to reflect, to share some things, and to tell you that sometimes we feel incredibly disconnected when in fact we are still here connected, one community on this dementia journey.

Our Words Make Up The Narrative

Battle, Bravery, Suffering, Courage. These are words I have read and heard constantly since the world learned that Tony Bennet is living with Alzheimer’s Disease. With his final bow having taken place this month, some of those same statements have come back around. These words only reminded me of the great work ahead of us in terms of stigma and the narrative we create about living with dementia.

I went on a rant two weeks about this topic of stigma, and conversations surrounding the posting of that blog only intensified this past week. In that blog, I started asking the question about what can we do to help break down what seems to be this giant of a topic. Well, I firmly believe that while the academics and the professionals working in aging and dementia hold the keys to many aspects of the solution, the media and the words they use in print and voice are the stepping stone we all need to reach the lock. If our media started changing the language they use our ears will catch on, we will start repeating the words we hear about dementia, the tone, the respect, and that will go a long way.

So, battle, bravery, suffering, courage. It is time it becomes living with dementia.* That does not negate the suffering and courage that goes alongside the dementia journey, but it puts it in the context of respect.

*Please note that this is a much larger conversation, and these words are still not enough, but we have always tried to change the narrative from the 10,000-foot view. Maybe it is time we start at the arm’s length view.

Will This Be The Home You Call Me Back To Visit?

Dear Dementia,

This family home is slipping through my fingers. The 25 years of shelter and warmth. As I shovel snow, I wonder, “Is this the home that will be the home you call me to visit?”
I walk through the rooms and smile as I see memories of the life that we lived. Is this the home that you will call me back to visit? If we meet one day, will home be 15 Pine and the memories we hold dear? Will the home be made of brick and warmth? Will the home be filled with my childhood?

If we shall meet, and I hope we never do, will this be the home you call me back to visit? This home at 15 Pine?

I often work with people who cry out for home. They want to go home. I think that it is not always the physical place they long for, but the people that filled those walls. I think of the people who cry out, and how little comfort I can bring them as the home they seek lives only in their hearts. If we are to meet, what will be the home I call out to go back to visit? I think of 15 Pine and the people my heart will long for, spent time within its walls. I think of my parents and grandparents, my brother, my neighbors, and my friends. I think of visits from distant family and the sounds that echoed through each room.

If we shall meet, and I hope we never do, will this be the home you call me back to visit? This home at 15 Pine?

At 29, I still have life to live, people to meet, and homes to make, but will this be the home you call me back to visit? So often, the people I serve long for their childhood home, not the home they built with their spouse or made for their children. 15 Pine was not my first home, nor was it my last, but in my almost 30 years of life, 15 Pine has been my home the longest, and from that, I must confess it is my Home, with a capital H. My Home here on earth. Will the years change that? Will this not be the home I seek? Will the people that walk through its threshold not be the people I long for, or will it be a hybrid of sorts?

Dementia, I hope we never meet, but if we do, will 15 Pine be the home you call me to visit?

May we never meet,


The Shock!

Do we create a stigma or magnify a problem simply so we can look like the heroes, the problem solvers, the “magic makers?” I think we do. How often do we come across an interview or article written to highlight a care community’s, “unique and innovative model” or hype up their marketing and public perception? When comments are made (and we are all guilty of this at some point in our life) stating that “In other care communities those suffering from dementia and other physical and mental ailments experiences x, y, and z. Here at (community name), we believe in a, b, and c.” They come off with a degrading statement followed by a polished marketing statement. For me, these moments, regardless of the beautiful work the community is doing or how innovative and powerful their programs may be, shuts me down, and I immediately move on to the next article, video, or other tasks. Why is this so problematic? We are enhancing and stating a stigma or using language that we know is not correct to “shock” or to put down the “competition” to make ourselves look better. This is done all the time and is not unique to care organizations and communities.

Our social workers, creative arts therapists, psychologists, medical professionals, and others are all trained to reinforce stigma instead of using their knowledge and area of expertise to help alleviate it. Work with aging and dementia is seen as unworthy, less than, where the professional is unable to do, “deep work.” Where did this lie come from? Why are our professors pouring water on this idea instead of weeding it out?

We want to shock for our benefit. Stigmatize so that we can look like the hero. Ignore so that we feel guiltless as we work with the trendy population.

What harm this does! What trials it unloads onto those who seek healing! What cowards!

So what can we do? Those who are not in these positions to change what is going on? Beyond self-education and taking an evangelistic approach to our interactions, what can we do?

We can breathe. We can remember that we are all flawed human beings. We can pray. We can remember that we have a long way to go and this is part of the journey. Then we can, to the best of our unique abilities, head out and change when we can and move forward when we can’t.

What else would you say about this topic? What would you suggest?

The Glory of God is a Human Fully Alive

Do we truly believe that an individual with dementia can be fully alive? I think most of us would answer a resounding, YES!, but do our actions back that “yes” up? I think we fall short on that “yes” time and time again. Heck, replace “dementia” with “older adult,” and I think we fail yet again to back up that “yes.” How can we support the chapters at the end of life?

We bend over backward to make sure our children are provided the best opportunity educationally, medically, socially, clinically. We help young adults through a series of professional organizations, mentor programs, internships, and social events. We have ministries and organizations dedicated to those with young children. And what do we do for the older adult? The neighbor living with dementia so that they too can have those same opportunities that lead to a life fully alive?

I invite you to think about how you support those in your family, your neighborhood, your place of business to live fully alive through the opportunities of education, medical expertise, social programs and connections, and clinical support. What other ways can you help a person living with dementia live fully alive? What can your church do, your bible study, your prayer group, your faith community do to help everyone live fully alive, for the Glory of God.

If We Caved to Ageism

Collectively we fear aging. So much so, that in recent months a push to talk about ageism has sprung up faster than weeds in the field. Ageism is now in discussion at all ends of the spectrum, and the negative impact of ageism struck me this morning more than it usually does. 

18 years ago this October, my grandfather passed away after suffering a massive stroke in December of 1998. By so many individuals’ accounts, he was no longer a productive or full human being after that stroke. Many have such a limited view of what a productive and full life looks like in today’s world. If my grandfather had not lived past 1998, here is what my family would have lost: 

  1. The chance to serve and love another in new ways.
  2. The chance to further develop memories of times with our Poppa/Dad/Father-in-Law/Husband.
  3. The chance to make him laugh and finding joy and purpose in that simple moment.
  4. The chance to see what it truly means to sacrifice for another.

How can you tell me that was not a full productive life?

If my grandfather had not lived past 1998, we would have also lost my grandmother. Her dementia symptoms from what we know would have shown themselves much sooner, and her decline leading to the loss of what was 14 more abundant years filled with care, love, and relationship. 

16 years ago today, my grandmother was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. If we as a family took the ever-popular idea that she was no longer Grandma, Mom, Mother-in-Law and stripped her of her purpose, value, removed her from her home, and placed her in a locked memory wing right at the start, we would not have only been cruel, we would have also lost:

  1. The years of laughter and stories that were shared because dementia had lifted the veil.
  2. We would not have known sacrificial love.
  3. Our own faith in God would not have grown as strong as we witnessed her faith shine bright until the end.
  4. Part of our family history would have been lost to the ages. 
  5. We would have lost out on several years as a family since Grandma was the only glue holding the extended family together. 
  6. I would not be the professional I am today, working in dementia. I would be 1-dimensional, textbook, and complacent.  

Had my family not ignored the ageism of our time, we would be a family deficient in great and many things. As I see others recognizing the value of life, even in old age and in failing health, I am excited for what they will discover. The connections they will make with loved ones and friends, the joys and laughter that will fill their homes, and the giant step forward to releasing the world of ageism at both ends of the spectrum.