Instructions for Living

Instructions for Living

I just read the words below five minutes ago, and something in me simultaneously settled and thrilled.

“Yet it is good to know about our terrible selves, not laud or criticize them, just acknowledge them. Then, out of this knowledge, we are better equipped to make a choice for beauty, kind consideration and clear truth. We make this choice with our feet firmly on the ground. We are not running wildly after beauty with fear at our backs.”
– From “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg

I’m sitting on my back deck, in the late afternoon, with the long grasses blowing. I have a cowboy hat to keep off the sun, a sweatshirt from my much-loved college, reading glasses, and a mind in the process of expanding.

I’m reading Natalie Goldberg’s book because I am writing a book. I’m looking for all the help I can get, and a friend gave me “Writing Down the Bones”. As I read that paragraph I realized that these are directions for writing, for the therapeutic process, for life.

Ostensibly, I am writing a book for family caregivers for someone who has Alzheimer’s. Even as I stumble through the outline process (I made it through getting my PhD without ever outlining anything) I realize that my book is not just about caregiving—it is about living more authentically.

It is about running after beauty with our feet on the ground. I am thrilled and terrified.

Natalie G’s words helped solidify the knowledge that this book will expand me, even as I write it.

Just like life.

For more information on Natalie, including her 30th Anniversary Edition of “Writing Down the Bones” go to:

What NOT to Say to someone with Alzheimer’s

What NOT to Say to someone with Alzheimer’s

If you stop saying these things to a person with a dementia like Alzheimer’s, your struggles with communication and behavior problems will reduce.

1. Never say, “Do you remember me?
This immediately says to the person, “I’m testing you” and they will get nervous and fail. Instead say, “I’m Jane, the therapist” or “I’m Susan, your daughter.”

2. Never argue.
Arguing makes them dig in their heels. Instead agree or ask questions “Yes, this winter (even if it’s August) sure is hot.”

3. Never try to reason.
They literally can’t reason like they used to before the dementia. It won’t work like it used to, or like you want it to. Instead give choices “Do you want to eat lunch now or in ½ hour?”

4. Never say “You are home”
They have gone back in time and they are referring to a home they lived in long ago. Instead, validate their feelings, tell them they are safe and/or ask their favorite thing about their home.

5. Never say “I told you…”
When you say this you are saying “You are a moron who can’t remember things.” Instead, simply repeat what you’ve already said a gazillion times before.

So try these and see the difference!
If you are struggling with a family member with a dementia like Alzheimer’s give me a call at 206-769-8108 and I can help you walk through the disease.

Do “brain games” work? Here’s what some of the research literature says

By Jane Tornatore, PhD, and Liz Taylor

“Use it or lose it” has become a popular — and well-researched — motto for keeping our muscles working and healthy through exercise as we age.

Now increasing numbers of companies are using the same expression to claim that, by using their computerized “brain games,” moving to their retirement community, learning a new language or playing their crossword puzzles, older people can exercise their brains enough to avoid one of the most frightening illnesses of all, Alzheimer’s disease.

But is this use of “use it or lose it” accurate?

Is it possible to exercise our brain through new and rigorous mental activities so that it will stay supple and cognitively intact?

We decided to see what some of the most recent (2006-2010) research literature says. The results are decidedly mixed.

Of the approximately 15 articles we reviewed, it’s clear that no overwhelming evidence exists to show that brain games or anything else prevents Alzheimer’s. It’s a disease of extraordinary complexity that has medical science still scratching its head.

On the other hand, there is some evidence that stimulating your brain can improve brain functioning, at least for a time. There’s also no evidence that computerized brain games are better for the brain than other stimulating activities. However, if you like to use brain games, keep it up — and introduce new activities along the way. It’s the new activities that help — they form the new neural pathways in your brain, keeping your mind moving! None of it hurts (except, perhaps, your wallet), and there’s a chance that, even if nothing prevents Alzheimer’s, some of these efforts may keep you functioning normally longer, or at least make you a bit sharper as you go about your day.

The bottom line: staying healthy the old fashioned way is still the best way to keep your body and brain sharp as you age — exercising, eating well, reducing stress, and having an active social life. Stimulating your brain in ways you enjoy is just an added bonus.

Here are three of the most recent articles we reviewed:

“Data Lacking on Prevention of Alzheimer’s, Cognitive Decline,” Health-System Pharmany News, June 15, 2010

“Do Brain Trainer Games and Software Work?” Scientific American, July 2009

“Brain Games: Do They Really Work?” Scientific American, April 28, 2009

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