Saturday, May 31, 2008

Church Rummage sale

Yesterday Jean and I were walking and the Church on Fremont and 26th was having a rummage sale. Jean really enjoyed looking at the different things and talking to the people. She was really interested in the shoe section, blankets, and clothing. She picked up a small child's belt made of a rope like material and said, "I want this" unfortunately I hadn't brought any cash along. She put it back and walked out with an elderly man and his teenage granddaughter. She really likes over hearing people laugh and talk. When we got home she was tired and took a nap.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Summer Wardrobe

We've been shopping for summer clothes for Mother. On the subject of summer wardrobes, here's a photo of friend John Varley which appeared in the LA's shopping blog Racked .

With John's "Indiana Jones Goes Surfing" look setting the standard, we hope to dress Mother in equally classic (and comfortable) style. 

When the Phoenix landed on Mars on May 25, 2008, it was carrying a copy of Varley's story In The Hall Of The Martian Kings, along with fiction by various Varley wannabes like Isaac Asimov, H. G. Wells, and Ray Bradbury.

Picture of health

Remembering that the mission of The Mother Project blog is to post updates of the day to day adventures here at The Fremont Street Center for Healthy Aging, I will report that I am fighting the world's most long lasting cold, and have been for more than a month. Marcie, Margaret, Sam, Bart, Jenna and I have all come down with this cold. Mother and Dennis have chugged through it all without a sniff.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

From The Oregonian, Part 2

"We want people to have a sense of belonging." said Bill Reed, who developed Elite Care with his wife and business partner, Lydia Lundberg. "We want them to have influence over their surroundings, and we want them to have purpose." Elite Care does that through what it calls relationship-based care.

So this is the puzzle. Everyone would agree with the stated goals of the people who have founded Elite Care in Tigard, Oregon. How do you give elderly people sequestered in a nursing home a sense of belonging? How can a nursing home feel more homey? Recognizing that the kitchen is the heart of a home, they designed theirs without doors so it is open to residents at all times. They eliminated long, impersonal hallways, and they increased the caregiver-resident ratio. 

This sounds great, and I am sure it is great. But reading this article as a caregiver made me realize ----- 

I am starting to feel that most of the caregiving for elderly people is actually directed to the adult children who are making decisions about them.  It is not the mind and body of the old person which is being studied and maintained. It is the trust and cooperation of the adult child which is being massaged and nurtured.  Everyone wants the same thing for their parents. It is like selling beer. How do you sell beer? How do you set your "tastes great" beverage apart from all the others? 

The marketing hand tries to be quicker than the eye. 

I am not being critical of Elite Care when I point out that "relationship based care" is what virtually all human beings receive. All people being cared for are in relationship, and even people not being cared for are in (very bad) relationships. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Caring for the caregiver

Here is an article about the health costs of stress on the adult child providing care to a parent with Alzheimer's. The article doesn't mention a recent study which showed little difference between the stress levels experienced by adult children acting as long distance caregivers, and those who were in daily or weekly contact.

Our mission as scientists at the Fremont Street Center is to understand the exact source of this stress. Why is it pleasurable for parents to care for children, and life draining for children to care for parents? 

From The Oregonian

Today in the Oregonian, reporter John Foyston writes about a new assisted care facility in Tigard which shares many of the same goals as the Fremont Street Center for Healthy Aging.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Margaret Beeson, Artist

This is one of Margaret's collage paintings. Here is the link to her page where you can see more of her artwork.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Coach Broyles

The best book written about caring for a person with Alzheimers at home is by a professional football coach. Frank Broyles cared for his wife when she got Alzheimers. He combined his coach's mentality with his personal experience caring for his wife to create "Coach Broyles' Playbook for Alzheimer's Caregivers: A practical  tips guide". 

It is available for free from

I highly recommend it. His experience with his wife closely matches our experience with Mother. One difference is that Mother's appetite is intact. He had to fight his wife's declining interest in eating.

Mother loves to eat. She loves to see people. She loves to get compliments. She loves us, the people she sees everyday. She may get to the point where she loses interest in eating, but it is not yet here.

Stage Six

Here is a link to a page which lists the stages an Alzheimers patient travels through. This particular list has seven stages of the illness. Mother's current status matches up well with their description of the sixth stage. One difference: They list suspiciousness, delusions, hallucinations, and compulsive behaviors as part of the sixth stage. Mother has none of these ( unless her report to Marcie that Glen was sitting beside them on the couch counts as a hallucination, and not ESP).

Friday, May 23, 2008

It Takes A Village

Last weekend staff researcher Margaret Beeson and senior researcher Jean Wyatt took time off from Fremont Street Center duties to travel to Lloyd Center to shop. We had some VERY hot days, and Mother's summer wardrobe is pretty skimpy. I myself would not have thought Mother had the stamina to travel on a bus, and then go through racks of summer shirts. I would never have dreamed of undertaking this mission. Margaret made it work.
Margaret's hints for shopping with Mother
1. Go slowly.
2. Stop for rest at Safeway, have cold drinks and people watch. 
3. Listen to Mother's feedback.
4. Honor her choices.

It is hard to think of a more holistically healthy activity. Clothes are the first layer of Mother's physical environment.  She comments on other people's clothes, and enjoys getting compliments on her own. I know all of this, but it never would have occurred to me to take Mother shopping. I would have automatically assumed that she would be too uncomfortable and impatient to withstand the experience.

This is a good example of why it takes a village to care for a person with Alzheimers. Marcie pioneered taking Mother on bus trips. Now Mother has new clothes (and we have an expanded appreciation of her capabilities ) because Margaret built on that, and used the bus to take her to Ross Dress For Less. Hooray for our teamwork. and for Mother.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Shopping Trip

Recently on a warmer day last week, Jean and I took the bus to go shopping for new cooler outfits. She seemed to like going down the rows of clothes and feeling certain ones. I held up two different shirts slowly at a time to see which one she liked best, she always felt each item and seemed to be attracted to the color blue. There were some bright colored things she automatically refused, like florescent green! Finally we picked out 2 short sleeved button up blouses, one teal and one a salmon color. When we arrived back Anne mentioned how much they did look like something she might have picked out on her own, she really did!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Mother has begun to talk. The good part about this is that it makes her more active as she interacts with other people. The bad part about it is that whenever she is in the car, she backseat drives like mad.  I am thinking she must have done this with Glen as his eyesight diminished. 

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Where's Jenna?

Jenna attended the Obama rally at Waterfront Park today ( Sunday). See if you can pick her out in the crowd.

Switching Seats

An unusual occurrence first thing on a quiet, beautiful Sunday morning.  Halfway through an otherwise ordinary breakfast with Dennis, Mother shoved her entire place setting over to the end of the table, got up and switched chairs. She finished her cereal, toast and juice sitting at the head of the table.

Mother's three daily meals are the clock her life revolves around.  We always are relieved at how oriented and comfortable she is in "her" (at least we thought she thought of it as "her") chair at the table. However......
One of the pictures on the refrigerator shows her seated at the head of the table (back to the French door) reading the paper while Glen, coffee mug in hand, grins at the camera.  In the picture she is seated in the chair she switched to today. Perhaps that chair was always hers. We will adjust things accordingly.

As an act of reclamation, this gets filed in the same category as her request for her wedding ring, and bringing us a picture of her children.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Roving Photographer

Our partner institute, The Ames Center for Human Development, contributed this informal photo of the 2007 summit conference which led to the creation of the Fremont Street Center for Healthy Aging. This is a small sampling of conference participants.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Man At Work

On May 7, Dennis hosted an Open House at his office, Room 102 in Villa Maria on the Marylhurst campus. Two university vice-presidents and two KBOO talk show hosts were among the select crowd which showed up to eat cheese & crackers and watch poet Walt Curtis intone a Buddhist blessing. Then Dennis showed us the first section of Eisenstein's Que Viva Mexico (shot in Mexico, in Russian, with Danish subtitles).

Mother's Day

Mother's Day visitors at the Fremont Street Center for Healthy Aging included Susie, Tom, Charlie, Sam, Joy, and Bart. Susie brought her second "hands on" art project designed to re-waken the senses and engage the stultified creativity of Fremont Street staff. The first time she wore her "art therapy' hat during a visit to Mother, she brought the raw materials for individual newspaper and magazine photo collages. One result still hangs in the living room, a beautiful collage Mother often studies intently. This time Susie brought the raw materials for individual fruit collages.

We covered the dining room table with newspaper, and Susie set out two cantalopes, two oranges, two baskets each of raspberries & blackberries, and an enormous box of strawberries.
We supplied everyone with table knives (we shared cutting boards ) and plates, and the food art began. Sam made spaceships. Marcie made the face of Harpo Marx, with blackberries for his curly hair. Joy and Bart kept everyone supplied with cut up cantalope. Mother followed the action, and ate a fair amount of fruit.

Tom arrived after the fruit collages were consumed, and the food artists dispersed. But he had his own gifts for Mother - a bouquet of flowers and an apple pie. Dennis was making tuna noodle casserole for dinner, a Mother's Day menu choice designed to honor Mother's magic recipe which both Tom and I remember being served in white casserole dish shaped like an ocean liner. He stayed for dinner, and told us about the bike ride he and Patti are planning in Iowa this summer.

Mother got calls, visits, fruit sculptures, flowers and a pie. Overall, I think she had a very satisfying day.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Visit from Margaret K.

It is a cold, grey Saturday. Dennis was at Marylhurst and I was at my computer, so Marcie answered the doorbell. I heard voices and came out after they had continued long enough for it to seem as if Mother had received a visit. This rarely happens, so I was curious.

Margaret Koski was sitting at the dining room table with Mother and Marcie. She did not know Mother had Alzheimers, and was visibly saddened to see that Mother did not recognize her. She sat and talked with us. She said she and Leroy still live on 23rd, and that they both still sing. She still gets around by herself, but complained that bus drivers were impatient with her, and that she didn't like it when children came up to her asking for money. She said she had just been signed up for Meal On Wheels, and liked them very much.

We asked her about her fitness walks with Mother and she reminisced about them. She told Mother that she loved her, and that she was her best friend. She was a little hard of hearing, but cheerful and outgoing. She was persistent in getting Mother to speak to her.

She had absolutely no interest in hearing about any of Mother's kids. I guess that's not what they talked about on their walks!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

This Just In

Our partner institution, the Ames Center for Human Development, sent this photo of two of their staff conducting research on a recent visit to the Windy City. We are looking forward to working with them on similar projects in the future.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Other Voices

In the comments left on a NYTimes blog "A Lesson on how to say good bye", a woman describes her mother's response to hospital interventions - she would say "That's enough". Mother sometimes says "That's enough." when she hears a loud noise she doesn't like. I don't know how it is that elderly women with dementia still manage to be so polite. They don't say "No" or "Shut up!" or "Take your surgery and shove it" . They say "That's enough."

Slow Medicine

This Sunday New York Times had an article about slow medicine and I looked up the book by the doctor who coined the term. His emphasis on day to day caring matches the goals of the Fremont Street Center for Healthy Aging to a "T". Perhaps we should consider adding him to our staff.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Remembering Tom

Margaret and Mother strolled around Lloyd Center today, and on the way home Margaret said Mother kept talking about Tom. She even called him "Tom Richardson". This is very unusual!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Princess Gill

As a memory aid at the Fremont Street Center For Healthy Aging, we have attached a rotating series of photographs from Mother's many stacks and boxes of family photos to the refrigerator. Theadora Joy, a visiting researcher from the Emerson Street Center for Early Childhood Development, was studying the collage of family members recently. She pointed out one photo and said "Who is that?" 

I said "That's Gill. She's your mother's aunt. I think she is your great aunt." Joy said "She looks like a princess."

I share this finding with pride, as a perfect demonstration of the unique and profound insights of our visiting staff. Theadora J. is a leading participant in the current wave of princess studies, acutely concerned with the acquisition and production of knowledge related to unmarried royal females. It is of no small moment that a specialist of such standing was able to single out this one image from among many on the refrigerator, and confidently proclaim this assessment.