Health Care

July 31, 2014

When memories matter: Finding humor and hope in dementia

A Lowcountry nonprofit organization that serves families affected by dementia seeks original material for a fundraising book.

Daddy doesn’t play the organ any more.

He has hammered out Bible songs on the piano and organ since I can remember. He took piano lessons growing up and always lamented that he didn’t practice enough as a child, like his sister, Mary.

We all thought it was good for Daddy to play the organ in his later years, especially after dementia started to slowly steal him away.

Other things have left him in recent years. Many of you know how this process works. He was glad to see my sister on a recent prolonged visit. But at one point he asked her, “Now what’s your maiden name?”

He still likes to read aloud, carefully enunciating each word and announcing the commas and new paragraphs.

He can still pray. And he recites the blessing that was always used before meals in his childhood.

When this process started, everyone said we needed to tend to my mother, his caregiver.

Following the advice of several veterans, I ordered her a copy of “The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for Persons with Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementing Illnesses, and Memory Loss in Later Life.”

She had already been given a bag full of helpful books, which she did not have time to read. And besides, Daddy just moved them around the house so it was hard to keep up with them.

Hilton Head Island, Bluffton and Beaufort are lucky to be served by nonprofit agencies that help family members cope.

Memory Matters, which serves Hilton Head and Bluffton, has recently started collecting stories for a fundraising book on experiences with dementia. It is seeking original essays of 250 words or less, poetry, humorous anecdotes, reflections, art and photography. It can be from family members, friends, caregivers, health care professionals or persons with dementia. You can call for details at 843-842-6688.

Assistant director Karen B. Doughtie said proceeds will go to Memory Matters programs.

“We are looking for caregivers to share funny stories, moments of joy, poems, anecdotes and art,” she said. “We are getting some but others are so sad and the idea of the book is one of humor and hope.”

I’m going to send them a story from the early stages, when Daddy was given medication. Mama made sure he took it every morning. And every morning, Daddy would say, “What’s this for?”

And every morning, she would say: “It’s for your memory, George.”

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