Monday, June 30, 2008

Doctor Appt

Mother is experiencing a side effect to one of her medications - her bloodthinner. We were told to keep an eye on her toes and call in if they became discolored. One of her toes has become discolored, and Dr. Harbison is seeing her tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Home Base

Mother continues to ask about/refer to Glen. She sometimes calls Dennis "Glen". Besides carrying around playing cards which belonged to Glen, she sometimes carries around one of his harmonicas.

Mother no longer asks to "go home". I was feeling triumphant about this, thinking we could take credit for eliminating this Alzheimers symptom. My theory was that this symptom is not a symptom of Alzheimers cognitive disruption, but a normal, natural problem solving response of a person who feels neglected. So I asked Dennis if he had heard Mother ask to "go home" recently.  He said she asked to go home the other evening while he was watching baseball. She wanted to show him something in another room. He told her to wait until the end of the inning. That's when she wanted to go home.

The Self Healing Table

Three household mysteries I want to share:

1) We have what appears to be a food processor blade ( white plastic, curved) in the kitchen. Did Mother ever have a food processor? I never knew that she did.

2) We have what appears to be a dinosaur bone (round end of a femur bone, possibly) in the front yard. Dennis uncovered it last year when he was turning under the sod. We left it pretty much where he found it (only now it is above ground) , mostly because we don't know what to do with it. It is there among the rocks and plants, glowering with mystery.

3) Mother's dining room table has been returned to health. I never dreamt when I started washing it with Murphy's Oil Soap, and wiping it down with furniture oil, that I would see the transformation which has occurred. Wood must be magic. What was old, rough, bleached, and spotted, is now smooth, dark, and has a uniform glossy finish. 

When I took the one chair into Gerry's Furniture Refinishing to get it re-glued, Gerry remarked that it was an unusual piece of furniture because it was made of soft oak. It does not appear to have been a pricey dining room set. Nevertheless, it has withstood decades of use - Mother is eating today everyday at the table at which she ate everyday as a child.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Dennis' Friday AM With The Kids

Sam & Bart came over at 9:30 AM. We hung out in the back yard until 11:30.  I hadn't planned on moving to the front yard, but Bart followed me when I moved some stuff to the garage. We found Jean and Margaret sitting in the porch swing. Bart wanted to sit with them. I collected sam from the back yard. Various combinations of Sam, Bart, Jean and Margaret ensued in the swing. It was nice seeing Sam lay his head in Jean's lap. Around noon Margaret and Jean went inside.We stayed outside. I read them Matthew & Mia.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

John Roderick, refusing to age in Portland

A wonderful tirade, combining envy with disgust, on the unique charm of the city in which Fremont Street Center for Healthy Aging was developed and continues to operate.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Choir of Soloists

An impressive round up of blogs about coping with Alzheimers as a caregiver can be found at

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dancing in gym

The above portrait of the Gower family, painted in the 18th century, offers a great example of a one scientifically proven method of raising brain healthy human beings.  It has been reported in the New England Journal of Medicine  that 

"Among leisure activities, reading, playing board games, playing musical instruments, and dancing were associated with a reduced risk of dementia."

All of these genteel leisure pursuits begin in childhood. We are taught these brain healthy behaviors so that they are second nature to us before we need them.  

What if we never learned them? 

The Grant High School PE curriculum included square dance, fox trot, polka and waltz. We learned them with boys, although ordinarily the gym classes were sex segregated. After the social dancing unit was over, we had a modern dance unit. Everyone in class had to perform, using their own choreography. At the time I was baffled by the idea that I should learn dance from the same person who taught me swimming, track and basketball. 

Now it turns out our gym teacher was forward thinking as a health professional, and completely right.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Doctor Prescribes Yoga

My doctor wrote out a prescription for me  - to help me kick a very long lived cold. She said I would have no success getting rid of the cold until I did more yoga. My yoga teacher Barbara Fergusson will be happy to hear this. Barbara has been refining my understanding of yoga since last fall. She has been working on getting me to be more aware of building strength, as I am good in the flexibility and balance departments. She also has been a great example of how to fit yoga into your life, instead of the other way around.

Jenna and I did swimming yoga today (otherwise known as "swimming") at Matt Dishman Pool. Nancy, Jenna's mother-in-law, is visiting this weekend, and Jenna got a day's break from the kids.

Porch Swing Big Sucess

We  brought home a porch swing, hoping Mother would like sitting in the front yard, since she cannot be persuaded to sit in the back yard.  We thought she would like seeing pedestrians going by, and people saying hello to her. We wanted her to get some fresh air, even when she wasn't out walking. It has been up for four days and has been a total success. 

One outcome of Mother getting more social interaction outdoors is that it makes her more lively and curious indoors. On low energy days she sleeps and watches TV. On higher energy days she wanders about, picking up things and making sculptures out of collections of favored objects. She prowls about the house opening doors, marking her territory. Being on the porch swing seems to bring about the higher energy behavior.

Margaret spent almost an hour on the swing with her today. On Tuesday Dennis spent two hours on the swing with Mother. Another therapy appropriate for Slow Medicine.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

OHSU study

Here's an article about an OHSU study comparing the impact of meditation training vs relaxation training vs respite on caregiver stress levels.

I volunteered, but may not match their criteria because I am not a full time caregiver.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

August schedule

Staff member Margaret will be on vacation during the last week and a half of August. This would make an unusually great time for visiting scientists to get in some research. We will supply the raspberries, green beans, porch swing, and opportunities to socialize. Contact Fremont Street staff if you have questions..

A Beautiful Day

On June 14, Washington Husky Dennis William Nyback received a diploma, a pizza dinner hosted by ten of his closest friends, and a one hour long pep talk by commencement speaker Quincy Jones. Quincy advocated 1) second language acquisition (he is studying Mandarin & Arabic) 2) foreign travel 3) forgiveness 4) a Cabinet level position dedicated to the arts 5) teaching jazz, which he views as America's classical music, in public school, and 6) never giving up on your dream - not necessarily in that order. Husky Stadium was packed and 40,000 proud parents gave Dennis (& Quincy) a standing ovation.

I was able to be there because Jenna and Bart agreed to pioneer some on site field research at the Fremont Street Center for Healthy Aging . Bart in particular has some valuable insights on the relationship between mood and circadian rhythms.

Rixt F. Riemersma-van der Lek, MD

The Manhattan based think tank, the Morningside Heights Health & Well Being Project, announced recent research directly applicable to daily life here at Fremont Street. 

Here's a report on a randomized controlled trial experiment which measured the effect of sunlight on the sleep patterns of people with dementia. Short version: exposure to higher levels of light during the day helped people sleep better at night.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Watermelon Festival

Our sister institution, the Los Angeles based Russell Street Center for Family Studies, unearthed evidence of an indoor picnic attended by various early 20th century ancestors of Fremont Street staff. 

While we may not know the names of these early research associates, Dennis Nyback and I are fairly certain we know the popular music they were listening to.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Yerkes-Dodson Law

Staff researcher Anne R. expanded the geographic reach of the studies undertaken by the Fremont Street Center for Healthy Aging this week with a trip to study the impact of beautiful scenery and a delightful climate on issues related to aging. She can report a remarkable age retarding effect - the entire campus of Southern Oregon University seems to be filled with people who have either mastered the art of healthy aging, or have yet to encounter the phenomenon of biological decay.

Colleague Austin R. shared research results of his cross disciplinary approach - which combines statistics, American history, psychology and Japanese.  

Notes from a psychology lecture we attended together: You cannot see motivation, you can only imply it based on behavior.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Jean's quote of the day

"We're so enjoyable, how could they live without us?" - says a very cheery Jean.