The Power of One Monday, Dec 5 2022 

After leaving a store in a little strip mall, I sat in my car shuffling through my purse. I jumped when a woman knocked on my window.

“I’m sorry to frighten you,” she said sobbing. “May I take a photo of your license plate?”

I stepped out of my car, and the woman explained that she was in her car on the phone with her husband’s heart surgeon. She was very sad and frightened about the upcoming surgery and her husband’s fragile health when she looked up and saw my car adjacent to hers and my plate, which reads, “PEACE.” The woman said she believed the plate was a message for her not to worry, that all will be well. We hugged, and I promised to remember her husband in my prayers.

Sometimes, I wonder if I’ve done enough in my life, if my words, my actions—if I—matter. No doubt, many of us feel the same way. But really, we don’t have to accomplish extraordinary achievements to make a difference. It’s the little things that are powerful enough to change someone’s day, and possibly their whole thought process.

***Are you sad, troubled? Ask our heavenly mother, Mary, to pray with you. Learn more about this in my book, Grieving with Mary.

Support Tuesday, Nov 29 2022 

Dig in,

and brace yourself.

Learn from those who know more.

Then be part of the system of

support.

(Tree Roots on Cliff, Matthiessen State Park, Oglesby, IL)

***The holidays are exhausting for those of us in the best of health. Protect your loved ones with dementia from fatigue that will result in frustration for them and you by limiting time out of the home and the amount of people for them to interact with. See more helpful hints in my books Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving. And please, if you’ve read any of my books, please write a short review on Amazon. I’d greatly appreciate it.

Modified Holidays for Loved Ones with Dementia Monday, Nov 14 2022 

With the holidays approaching, all the fun and memorable events ahead present increased challenges for people with dementia. In addition, the darker days of fall and winter present other issues related to less sunshine. As many as 66% of people with dementia are thought to be affected by the setting of the sun. Beginning in the late afternoon, these people may show symptoms of confusion, anxiety, and aggression.

Families long for the traditions that mark the holidays. Special foods, music, colors, clothing, and decor shared with family and friends trigger emotions and tie memories of the past with the ones we make today. Sadly, our meaningful traditions are likely to be too much for our loved one with dementia. Including them can be more harmful and upsetting for them than enjoyable.

Brain power continues to diminish with dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease. Every level of stimulation we present to someone with this disease requires them to manage it with less and less ability. Think of all the stimulation we have this time of year–holiday lights; aromas from the kitchen; rich foods; and music, laughter, and multiple simultaneous conversations. This stimulation overload is exhausting for the healthiest people much less those already fatigued from daily living.

Maintaining a predictable routine with limited, controlled stimulation, and periodic rest periods is the key to keeping a person with mid-to-late-stage Alzheimer’s and other dementias calm. Parties that include our loved one with dementia are best limited to a handful of people at a time, close to or at home, in a quiet location, and for no more than two to three hours including travel time. Small group visits throughout the season rather than everyone at one time may be the best alternative.

Family members who do not spend much time with our loved one are not likely able to understand the change in traditions, or that our loved one may not be able to attend their festivities at all. However, celebrations with a loved one with Alzheimer’s is often more difficult for them than memorable or meaningful and therefore, need to be modified or completely abandoned. If we truly love them, the impact of our festivities on them and how we may include them in a way that is good for them rather than appeasing our emotional needs will be our priority.

**For additional guidance on living with loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, see Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving.

Seasonal Gifts Wednesday, Nov 9 2022 

Here in the Midwest, the change of seasons, especially as autumn eases into winter, can bring us down. We must bid adieu to warm, sunny days, flora, and fauna knowing it will be many months before these joys return.

Most of the leaves have fallen and the blossoms have faded. We’ve said good-bye to our hummingbird friends. Squirrels are busy storing food for the barren winter. The wind blows louder.

But nature still has surprises for us to find.

Today I strolled through Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois and was delightfully surprised.

Purples, pinks, oranges, yellows, browns, reds, and greens. Flowers, leaves, and branches.

Birds singing, chattering. Wasps searching for the last drops of sweet nectar.

My heart soared with so many treats to the senses. The most exciting was finding fragrant roses in bloom.

The frost is coming. These lovely days are numbered.

But nature will always provide us with delights. All we have to do is seek them.

* Caring for a loved one with dementia? You are not alone. I know what you are going through. So do others. Ask for the help you need. Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Inspired Caregiving.

Good Listeners Wednesday, Oct 19 2022 

Good listeners are rare. In fact, I know few people I could award this title. I myself am lacking here.

We talk. But listening is another matter. We interrupt and interject. We walk away or hang up when someone says something we don’t want to hear.

Why do we do this when we don’t want others doing these things to us? We aren’t listening if we are talking. And when we talk over someone, we are saying that what we have to say is more important than what they are telling us. So many of our arguments could be avoided if we heard what actually is being said and we showed one another the respect to fully listen.

Effective communicators are engaged in a respectful exchange of thoughts. We listen in ways that we want to be heard. We then are able to learn from others and solve problems together.

Here are a few basic guidelines to better communications:

  • Don’t interrupt the speaker.
  • Rather than thinking of what we want to say next, concentrate on what the speaker is saying.
  • Don’t criticize or judge, especially before hearing the speaker’s whole story.
  • Maintain eye contact with the speaker.
  • Offer non-verbal cues that we are engaged, such as a periodical nod.
  • After the speaker has stopped speaking, paraphrase so we clearly understand what was said.

*Books make great gifts. Does your gift list include anyone who may find one of my books helpful such as Inspired Caregiving, Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Grieving with Mary, or The Rosary Prayer by Prayer?

Surprise Find Wednesday, Sep 28 2022 

One of my favorite activities is to walk in the midst of nature. Pathways along rivers, lakes, and ponds offer abundant opportunities to spot flora and fauna. Treasures are to be found everywhere we look–deer, woodpeckers, turtles, moss, fungi.

One “treasure” I hadn’t considered are snakes. On a recent walk, a six-year-old nature enthusiast pointed out several snakes along a pond and stream I’d otherwise be oblivious to. I’ll be looking more closely under the rocks, tree stumps, and in the waterways on these types of walks from now on.

Approximately 40 species of snakes slither through Illinois. Most snakes have no interest in harming humans–until humans start poking them, which in my opinion, is fair. Only four species are venomous: Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, found in the northern part of Illinois; and Copperhead, Cottonmouth, and Timber Rattlesnake, found in the Southern end of the state.

Our state’s venomous snake species are pit vipers and belong to the Viperdae family. Their distinguishable characteristics include their elliptical (vertical shaped) pupils, their large sensory heat-sensing pits on both sides of their heads between each eye and nostril, their broad, triangular shaped heads, and a single row of scales under the tail.

I honestly don’t know what type of snake I encountered on that walk. If you do, please tell us!

***Take care of yourself so you can better care for your loved ones. Suggestions on how to do that can be found in my book, Inspired Caregiving. Amazon has it at a bargain price right now.

Honey, I Love You! Wednesday, Aug 24 2022 

Nature feeds our bodies and our spirits. It provides us with beauty, interest, creativity, food, and medicine. So, when we look for solutions, why not look to nature first?

Such natural generosity is evident in the sticky, sweet syrup of honey. Amazingly, honey contains antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties. When purchasing honey, look for a rich, dark color as the darker the honey the greater the antioxidant properties. Honey also has vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, which vary according to the nectar source.

Countless claims contest to the healing effects of honey. Here are a few:

  • It’s said to release serotonin thereby increasing one’s mood. That serotonin converts to melatonin aiding in sleep.
  • Local honey is thought to assist in relieving seasonal allergies.
  • A spoonful of honey coats and soothes a sore throat and suppresses a cough.
  • Some believe in the effectiveness of honey dressings on minor burns and scrapes.
  • A solution of honey and warm water can be applied to the scalp to relieve itching and flaking.
  • In addition to drinking lots of water, honey may assist the liver in processing alcohol oxidation and ridding toxins from over-consumption of alcohol.
  • Raw, unprocessed honey may be applied as a mask to reduce the inflammation and redness associated with acne.
  • Honey is said to reduce irritation after an insect bit.
  • Honey may improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • It may even lower blood pressure.

According to WebMd, Manuka honey, which is produced only in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the Manuka bush, is considered particularly beneficial. The flavor is slightly more earthy than regular honey but this type of honey offers much more in the way of nutritional and antibacterial properties. In addition, it contains methylglyoxal (MGO) and hydrogen peroxide. It may be particularly beneficial for bacteria-related digestive disorders and wound healing. Bandages containing Manuka are available over-the-counter.

Research shows Manuka honey can stimulate tissue regeneration, reduce inflammation, and decrease swelling. Studies also show it to be helpful in treating gingivitis.

As with most things in life, with all the positives, there are a few factors to consider. Manuka honey is definitely pricier than regular honey. And all honey contains calories, although, most people believe it is sweeter than white sugar and so can be used in lower quantities. Also, some people can be allergic to the pollen and/or digestive enzymes from the bees.

Most importantly, the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions parents not to introduce honey to children before the age of 1 year of age. Children’s underdeveloped immune systems make them vulnerable to botulism, a serious form of food poisoning. Incorporating honey in cooked food should be safe for children.

*See more at WebMD.

*Pray for world peace. We all will be better for it. The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, Grieving with Mary, Fatima at 100. Fatima Today.

*Thank you to all who have read my books, and especially, to those who have read and reviewed them on Amazon.

Great Midwest Weather Monday, Aug 15 2022 

Rarely, are we in the Midwest United States envied for our weather. We typically experience hot summers and cold winters. The change of seasons is fun to some extent. It is just that winters can be long, bitter, and dark when we have weeks with little sun.

However, our weather is currently perfect. Unlike much of the country (our coasts are hot and dry and south has had storms with flooding), the Chicago area is in the 70s/low 80s during the day with low humidity and pleasantly cool in the evening.

Also, we’ve had a good amount of rain, so our grass, shrubs, and trees are lush and green. The flowers, birds, and butterflies are in abundance. (Except for the rare occurrence of monarchs.) And fields are plentiful with fruits and vegetables.

I love the summer–the deep greens and lavish flora and fauna that surrounds us. The best part is that I can work on the patio surrounded by wee creatures coming and going. I find it inspiring, rejuvenating, and exhilarating.

*Photos: Black swallowtail butterfly, goldfinch, hydrangea, hummingbird.

*Take care of yourself while you take care of your family. Follow along with weekly photos, affirmations, prayers, suggestions for caring for yourself, and a little humor with my book, Inspired Caregiving.

Nature Speak Tuesday, Aug 9 2022 

The trees,

and shrubs

and grass

and wildflowers

The animals

and birds

and bugs

and fish

The rivers

and oceans

and mountains

and beaches

The wind

and rain

and sleet

and snow

The moon

and sun

and stars

and sky

Speak

in whispers

and shouts

and songs

and tears.

(Photo: Michigamme River, Channing, MI, 7/3/21

Photo and Poem by Mary K. Doyle)

*

**Do you know that I’ve written 11 books? You can find all of them on my website.

Advances in Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Wednesday, Jul 20 2022 

A simple blood test reveals a great deal about our health. Anemia, blood cancers, and infection can be detected in addition to learning information regarding heart, liver, and kidney function. And soon we may have a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease, as well.

Alzheimer’s disease’ isn’t typically suspected until symptoms begin interfering with daily living. More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and countless others unknowingly have it as the disease develops in the brain 10-20 years before symptoms appear. By the time Alzheimer’s is evident, valuable time has been lost—time that could have been used to maximize experiences with family and friends, plan for the future, make end-of-life decisions, and take advantage of medical options available in early stages.

As of this posting, an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis is made through a combination of basic screening and physical, emotional, and cognitive exams. There may be genetic testing if it’s believed to have run in a family. A more definitive diagnosis can be made with a spinal tap that detects tau proteins in cerebrospinal fluid. However, this is quite an invasive test and not covered by insurance.

The progression of Alzheimer’s disease begins when brain protein called amyloid beta accumulates into plaques. Another protein, tau, then produces tangles. Neurons begin to die from this build-up of plaques and tangles. Finally, brain tissue atrophies which can be seen as decreased brain volume on MRI testing.

PET brain scans are our best testing option at this time. However, the test requires an injection of a radioactive tracer for imaging, is expensive, and not covered by insurance.

All of these tests have limitations. Even PET brain scans and cerebrospinal taps do not provide information on changes in the neurons. Most importantly, our current tests are not able to detect Alzheimer’s until the disease has progressed significantly.

An exciting option on the horizon is a blood test that can be taken earlier in the disease process, perhaps even before symptoms begin. The Lumipulse G β-amyloid Ratio (1-42/1-40) is in the development stage and is hoped to be available soon.

We also have a new form of MRI that detects the loss of neurons that precedes brain shrinkage and cognitive decline. This test will then offer results sooner than the traditional MRI.

Current Alzheimer’s research focuses predominately on finding treatment for symptom management. Detection before massive destruction of cells would be more beneficial, and perhaps it would lead to a cure, which is not yet available.

For more information, see the FDA and the Alzheimer’s Association sites and the books, Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving.

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