Well now, what’s new?

Gosh it feels like ages since I have written and posted anything.  I am quite busy these days and need to get some time to sit and read, and also write.

Early December I lost my Dad.Scan 9

At 94 his heart simply stopped.  He was at home and had lost the reason to live after my Mum died last June 2015.   It was a sad time for all our family arranging a funeral for the second time in six months.   Now we have the hard task of working together to clear the family home, I don’t need to say how difficult that is.  We all miss him so much.

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So what else is new….well the biggest thing is that I recently tried to join a research trial for a new drug for dementia that has had some remarkable effects.  So I was keen to get on to the third phase.  Along I went and carried out the initial memory tests to see if I was eligible and was not really surprised to find out that my memory was too good for the trial!  Over time I have been feeling that my cognitive abilities have indeed improved and I discussed it with the researcher.  I have now been taking Rivastigmine medication (Exelon) for the last 2 (or is it 3 years?) and it has certainly improved things for me.  I have also worked hard in trying to keep my mental abilities active, by reading, writing, playing scrabble, sudoko and the like.   I think it is great news.   There are times when I know people have questioned their diagnosis (or others questioned the diagnoses of someone) when they do not appear to have any great cognitive difficulties or have improved.  It is very unsettling when someone has a diagnosis of dementia then told they do not have dementia because the symptoms have improved some what.  People want a reason for their cognitive difficulties.    For me, I would love to have a different diagnosis, ‘So sorry we made a mistake you don’t really have Alzheimer’s those empty holes in the blood flow in your brain scan was just a smudge on the camera lens’  and I still wonder if brain trauma looks the same as Alzheimer’s in a scan, but then know it is likely it leads to the same thing.  I even thought of trying to get a different diagnosis, perhaps downgrade it to MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment) which I already have, but the reason for it was diagnosed as Alzheimer’s.  It all seems so complicated and simple at the same time.  What does it matter anyway – well I will tell you how it affects you.  I have to first remind you that I do NOT have Dementia, yeah yeah I know that Dementia is a symptom, but it is also a disease, and Alzheimer’s is classed under that.  You still with me so far?   Ok so having been told before by one GP that you cannot have Alzheimer’s without dementia due to it being a dementia, I have Alzheimer’s disease without dementia.  That fact still remains true at present unless anyone else can interpret my scans differently.    Holiday insurance: did you know that you cannot get a yearly insurance if you have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s?  No matter that I may have only mild cognitive impairments, it is the word Alzheimer’s that is the crux.  I guess if I said my diagnosis is MCI then I would be able to get it.  I can get individual insurance for each holiday so I am told but at a greater cost.   (I have just booked a trip to Alaska with my daughter in August which we have been saving for! )  Driving licence:  I would have to apply for each every year with my doctors confirmation that I am able to drive.  I have however had to surrender it because my attention  is too poor.   Yet someone with ADHD, are they able to hold a driving licence I wonder?  Suffice to say the word Alzheimer’s in itself is a barrier to a lot of things regardless of the level of it.

It’s great though that my cognitive abilities have improved and I hope it will remain so for many years to come…….

I am involved in my local YPWD (Young Persons With Dementia) group and join in activities locally.  We had an arts and crafts course before Christmas which was fun, and since then it has been furniture up-cycling – something very close to my heart as I have furnished my flat with old furniture and am up-cycling it bit by bit.  I am really enjoying doing it and discovering what my style is!

On Monday I shall be speaking at the Berkshire Dementia Action Alliance Meeting.  When I was asked I felt a bit of a fraud but then I am more than capable to talk about how it was when I was diagnosed and what I have been doing since to keep my brain active – use or lose it as the saying goes, and how to make sure that I remember everything on a daily basis.  I can talk about how I still fear the future – when I allow myself to.   Also speaking with me is a guy  who is another member of the Newbury Empowerment Group so we know each other.   So I am trying to put together some notes for that.  Will let you know how it goes.

Next, I have been asked to be part of local nurse training giving information about early diagnosis and my experiences.  I can not only pass on what I know, I can also give them lots of information that they will not have even thought about!   I am so pleased to have been asked and can be a voice.  Not sure whether that will be by video or a talk.  Looking forward to being involved with that.

I have had some very small involvement in the West Berkshire Neurological Alliance, which is an excellent forum.  I regularly attend the Berkshire West Therapy Centre using their exercise machines to keep fit in a way that helps my Fibromyalgia.  It is such a unique place with only one other coming close to it in the country, I help out with raffles, and will help when they move premises on 1st April.

This year is already turning out to have the promise of lots to keep me occupied!

Closing a chapter…opening a door

You can’t have failed to have noticed that I have made some major changes to my website and myself.  I feel I am closing a chapter in my life.

Firstly, I have am in transition from being married to being single.  It is not appropriate for me to talk about that, only how I am redefining my life now.  Hence the name change, reverting to my maiden name.  ‘Gill Taylor Muses’  also introduced a new chapter in my life for me.

When I was given the diagnosis of ‘possible Alzheimer’s’ my life was turned inside out, upside down.  It felt like there was nothing left for me to plan for, to look forward to, that my mental demise would quickly overtake my life.  So I began making some wonderful friends across the world who also had been given dementia diagnoses.  Instead of just having support, they have inspired me, they have all worked tirelessly to show how anyone can live well with dementia, that education is needed world wide to enable everyone who has dementia can lead a better and indeed in many cases a productive life before the end stages.  They work to show people how to understand how dementia affects people, and how to communicate effectively.  I often hear people recalling their experiences of trying to talk or understand someone in the later stages of dementia who is seemingly talking nonsense and leaving everyone confused and frustrated.  I have learnt, however, how effective understanding and communication can make the experience  better for both sides.   It is simple really, all you have to do is learn about dementia and how it affects the brain, nothing technical just relating the personality of the person with dementia with their confusion.   Random sentences such as ‘I want to go home’ can simply mean “I am confused and am not sure what is happening, please reassure me”.    So a simple reassurance that a familiar person or place is around them, telling them you are they and everything is okay can help.    No need to talk about, where home is or isn’t.   That is a loose example that may not fit every situation but knowing the who the person was can help in how you talk to them.  My own mother never lost her sense of humour with her vascular dementia right up till the end.  So to bring humour into her life when we were talking was a really important way to make her feel safe and comfortable.

I digress.  I got out my diagnosis letters and re-read them.   At the time when you receive these letters all you can see is the word ALZHEIMER’S or DEMENTIA jumping out at you.   I was looking at it, and thinking about all the questions that were asked over various appointments and tests. Q: “How long have you notice problems with your memory” – this is a simple question isn’t it.  Answer:  Always.   Q: “Yes but more recently how long has it been getting worse”.  A: Well, I have noticed it more in the past couple of years.  Actually my daughter said to me “Mum, your memory is rubbish you should go and see about it”.

Why did I answer like that?    They were pushing me to give then a date, a time, but it has always  been a problem.  I remember at University, I was 40 years old and felt so excited to be given the opportunity to study but worrying that I would find it hard to remember any of the information that I had to learn.   See, that’s another thing I have always had a problem learning new information.    I studied Combine Science; Psychology which included how we learn new information, in fact my final year dissertation was titled Evaluation of Configural and Elemental Models of Associative Learning Using Visual Lexical Stimulus  – in simple terms that means looking at two theoretical models of how stimulus enables us to learn something new, using two categories of insects and their parts, and the cognitive process of learning which belonged to which.

For me it was the most challenging of studies because it was complex, however it gave me a good understanding of associative learning.    This does have a bearing on my diagnosis and my understanding of my own cognitive difficulties which makes up the reasoning behind my diagnosis.

My experience at University was such that I would have to read, and re-read the same things over and over.  Make notes and then revise those notes because I would not remember anything in them.   Lectures were a nightmare because I could not remember what was said in any detail whatsoever, my notes were a mess lacking in any cohesive form and made no sense once I had left the lecture theatre.  Short of writing down verbatim what was being said I had no chance of remembering details.  The worst part was the lack of any memory of the substance of many of my lectures.  I knew I had a real problem but never thought to ever question it with anyone.  Psychology is a long list of theoretical models by Psychologists and dates that have to be remembered in the correct order.  Arrrggghhhhh……..yes this was a nightmare for me but I would learn them by rote learning, and by making up ridiculous sentences with the initials of their first name.

I also studied History of Science, and with such a range of subjects, facts and figures I am surprised I managed to remember anything.  One thing I have always been good at is using my imagination and lateral thinking.  A learned skill from childhood when your memory is extremely poor.   During my finals, I had an exam whereby the questions arose of things that none of us had focussed on during revision and I wrote a complete essay using my understanding of the progression of science, and one paragraph I had read in a book on Alexander Von Humbolt and weather systems.

Following University I worked in IT and was fortunate enough to have a wonderful friend (thank you Darren) who would continually give me the technical instructions that somehow I could never manage to learn.  I wrote everything down, every single detail of instructions, and even then managed not to understand them.  And when I couldn’t remember something that I had been doing day in and day out, Darren would be the one who would tell me, yet again.    He did say on more than one occasion that he had already gone through a procedure with me, but thankfully always told me again.   This enabled me to be effective in the job I had.

Finally, as I was getting older, my memory problems was beginning to be more apparent.  The most apparent thing was that, not that I was forgetting, but I had no memory of events that day or previously.  Notes I had made seemed alien to me having no knowledge of writing them, and of course the information they contained I couldn’t remember.

So….was this new or was this something that has got worse as I have got older?   Who can say after 60 years of age that they have not wandered into a room and forgotten why they are there?  Or forgotten what they are talking about midway?   Or meant to do something important but managed to forget remembering after it is too late?

Back to my diagnosis.   I had a brain scan, the scan shows perfusion (reduced blood flow) in several areas of my brain.   Medial/parietal lobes, more so on the right, and an underdeveloped frontal lobe, but no perfusion there.    The underdeveloped frontal lobe is attributed to possible brain damage due to being dropped on my head as a baby (I asked = no), or repeated blows to the head throughout childhood from my mother.    I now would like to discuss with my consultant when I see whoever it is next year, my thoughts about this.  I can’t possibly have had Alzheimer’s all of my life.    It is written and was discussed during the appointment where I was given the diagnosis of possible Alzheimer’s that I do not have DEMENTIA.    ‘Not possible’, one doctor has said to me, of course you have dementia if you have Alzheimer’s disease because it is one of the dementias.  Confuses the hell out of me I can tell you!

So here I am with memory difficulties that I have had most of my life, preparing to become totally disabled through dementia, when I can no longer relate how I am to the ‘label’ of Alzheimer’s.

Is is wrong of me to say, I have always been like this and therefore know that it could be a long long time before dementia takes hold as much it will with anybody, so until then I will assume that my diagnosis is a label that cannot be proven until autopsy.

Of course I shall still be shouting loud at the ‘Empowerment Group’ for dementia meetings, because I can!   I shall be a voice that can speak for those who cannot.  I shall still be vehemently fighting for Dementia education for all, again because I can!

I am also getting involved in the Fibromyalgia Support group because that is what is affecting me the most these days with lots of pain.

Onwards and upwards, I feel it will be an exciting year of activities in local groups.

Alzheimers Journal: The move

I packed all of my life into boxes, how much stuff can one get on a small boat is incredible!  I am sure a lot of it should be thrown away and when I continue opening boxes I shall be doing so.   Trying to be organised when you have Alzheimer’s is  incongruous to the task.   In my defence I will say that I was trying to keep the boxes light by adding a random assortment of things into each 😉

I dare not stop to think about the emotional cost of what was happening because I needed to be focussed on making sure everything I needed to do was done on time.   I tentatively wrote on each box what was in it, but by the time it was filled I had no real idea what I had put in there!

I said goodbye to my cat of thirteen years who was remaining behind with my husband, she would be happier to remain in a life that suited her.   To my friends I had made in the marina, and my boat that I had lived on for 5 years.

I will allow myself one teary week, then will get on with it .

Moving into an Anchor Housing studio flat is not the worst thing to do.  I have already met some lovely people and with the knowledge that there is a Manager on site it is extremely suitable.

Unpacking is a nightmare, but I don’t need to tell you that do I?   I have little furniture having bought a pine bookcase and tv table at a community furniture project that I shall very shortly be ‘upcycling’ by painting and maybe distressing.

In my first week I have had a cooker, fridge freezer and carpet installed and fitted.

I have been sleeping on my chair which is excruciatingly painful when you have fibromyalgia.    Then my wooden bed arrived which I put together – splendid.  No mattress yet though 😦   I have tried to make a ‘nest’ of duvets and anything soft to use it to sleep on, and its almost comfortable (okay not the right word but I am being positive here).   Then yesterday I put together the drawers that go underneath the bed, well supposedly!  They are either 2cm to high or the bed is 2cm too short whichever way you look at it.  So I have emailed the ‘not so helpful’ Mr Mattress.co.uk, to ask if they can give me a date for my mattress being delivered (which they previously just said no), and what can be done about the drawers not going under the bed.  Frankly I am not expecting much response from them, and I am tiring of trying to sort things out.   I have noticed that where as once I was able to spring into action and get things done, now I have to plan everything I do.  The stress makes me more ‘befuddled’ so I will take my time, there is no hurry.

Emotionally, I do what I do to stay positive and upbeat.

The importance of ART and MUSIC in dementia

All places where people have to visit, or where they live such as care homes or in their own home should be places that are bright and homely.  Seeing pieces of artwork or hearing sounds that they know may promote something that they have been interested in.  It is important for music to be played at times with classical, pop, folk, country (not just a radio stuck on with a channel that the staff think will do too low to hear,)  and then add some quiet times.  When music is important the type of music is also important and a whole range of music genres.

It is becoming well known that music is important to people with dementia stimulating some memories, and obviously that music has to be appropriate to each person.   In fact we all have different tastes in about everything there is; music, colours, clothes, books, places – the list is endless but you get my drift.  My interests include psychology research (because I took my degree in psychology and learnt that the mind and brain is truly fascinating, even if I struggle to remember what I learnt).

I came across this article on art and thought it made interesting reading, because I believe it has a bigger picture to offer us (excuse the pun there!).

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Night Geometry by Jack Vettriano

Basically is shows that seeing art on the walls in a gallery have a more powerful effect than being shown a photo of a picture.   I love art and there is nothing better I like than seeing a piece of art on a wall somewhere, not just in a gallery, but anywhere.  Art with meaning in a cafe, shop, corporate building, or someone’s home.  I have my own collection of art  by various inluding a signed prints by artists Jack Vettriano (Night Geometry), and Susan Howells amongst other interesting artists.

Not So Fast Please
Not So Fast Please

I am not a keep lover of some of the meaningless pictures you can buy in any high store depicting the fashionable ‘picture of the day’ such as a photo of a white flower pot with coloured plant in etc.

How does all this to relate to this article?

I think that ALL of these public and private places should be respect the cultural differences and display a whole range of good ( I reiterate that) GOOD artwork on the walls of these establishments.  Nothing wrong with good prints in decent frames.   Lets see some decent artwork around.    People with dementia may have been art lovers too.

So people working in care homes around the world, take a step back and think about what it is you would like to hear and see around you.

Just saying…..

Travelling with Azheimer’s

So, I travelled to London to stay with my daughter for Christmas.  A one hour journey with one change which went well I got to Euston fine.  No sweat.  Next – two tube journeys to meet my daughter.

No problem eh?  First tube was ok, I started to feel a bit anxious but the instructions were clear, get the Victoria line Northbound.  Just follow the signs.. and yes I got on the right underground train.  I alighted at Highbury and Islington and had to get on the overground to New Cross Gate.  I couldn’t see the map on the top of the wall to see where we were, and started to worry that I was on the wrong train.  What if I was on a train going in the opposite direction?  My anxiety levels started to increase.  I was no longer sure about what train I was on.  This should be so easy, I have the directions on my phone as a list.  But can I be sure the list and the train I am on is the same?  The feeling of anxiety is heightened even though I am trying hard to convince myself to calm down; I am on the correct train.

Once upon a time I would take all this in my stride, no stress, on the wrong train – no problem just get on another tube in the right direction.  Sadly now that is a harder option because I am no longer confident in trying to sort out where I need to be.

I am well aware that I am at a very High End Functioning end of Alzheimers/Dementia  – thank goodness.  Keep going like this for as long as I can.

Anyway, I got there fine and we had a very nice time, nothing special, nothing racy, just quiet and normal.  We cooked a wonderful dinner together, we watched Disney films:  Frozen, Brave etc.. lovely!

And then……we just remained cosy and normal for Christmas days.  Eating, drinking (not too much) watching TV, chilling, sleeping..etc, just the relaxing time you would want for the holiday period.

Journey back:  just hell

No trains back from Euston.  Various routes:  but mainly from Marylebone – via Banbury/etc etc..  I had negotiate my ticket on the train because I was not on the Midland Mainline.  I had a change at Birmingham Moor Street with a walk to Birmingham New Street.  Sorry but I could not contemplate trying to find my way to New Street Station so i called Mr Hsg and he picked me up from Moor Street Station.

Phew, anxiety breakdown averted.  I feel so good that I did it.

I used to be able to go anywhere without much trouble, if there were challenges to work out the route – no problem.  Just find the destination and work it out.  These days I plan, I write out the plan, I get anxious that the plan is not working.  But, right now I can make it.

When you think of someone making a simple journey difficult, think hard.

A simple bus journey that you and they have always done, suddenly becomes the most complicated journey ever.  Don’t expect a person with Dementia to be able to negotiate a simple journey like they used to.  Written instructions may have no meaning, memories of the journey may be lost.  Do not assume that because they did the journey before, they can do it again.

Fortunately, I am still at a stage where I can phone people who I know can help me when I get confused.  But the time will come when I am no longer able to make that simple train journey on my own,

Before you assume your loved one can travel the same as they have always travelled, ask them if they still feel able to do so in the same way.  Do they feel confident? Has anyone written out their route for them?   Is there anyone who can meet them?

When I can no longer travel alone, who will be willing to accompany me to where I want to go?

These are the things that need to be thought of in Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

Just thinking……………………..

 

 

 

Alzheimer’s: Dreams and beyond 🌏

treebuttfly

Just been scrolling through and reading some posts of the people I follow, and some I haven’t met yet.  I love reading travel blogs and seeing pictures, something interesting, not just blurb about the places that can be read in any travel brochure but personal experience.

Thing is, I seem to have a ‘compulsion’ to seek out personal experiences in remote places.  I am not totally sure why this is, but I feel as if I am always searching for something, some truth or peace.   Is this something new?  No, I think I have been like this my whole life.   I enjoy seeing the simplicity of people’s lives, and even though I know it is a hard existence I find myself imagining what it would be like to return to basics, to be filled with the simple pleasure of seeing the mountains/forests/rocks/grasslands around me.

I found a great site called Gypsy by trade and devoured their experiences feeling so envious.  How wonderful to work and save for six months and then travel by bike around remote places.   To meet the people they have met, seen such wonderful land around them.

Of course it is an absolutely ridiculous thing for me to feel envious of their lifestyle, I am too old, too decrepit and in pain with Fybromyalgia, and I have Alzheimer’s, but it doesn’t stop me dreaming.

Hope is a waking dream.  
– Aristotle

I believe that my peace is without luxury, it is plain, natural, and honest.  It is in silence in the midst of the roar of nature.  I think if I were remotely religious I would be a Quaker.  I once attended a course on debt at the Quakers House in Leicester and remember the feelings of peace being there with the simple style of plain wooden furniture and the calm of the gardens.

I feel sometimes as if my life has fallen through the holes of sieve. The excitement of my youth with dreams and plans trickled through with lack of confidence to live, fell through first…

Now; I feel a contentment in myself, I am terrified for my future with Alzheimer’s because there is nothing I can do to change it, but right now I am comfortable with who I am, and how I am.  I have the peace of being on water, waking up to the birds each morning, and most days no industrial noises.  Only when the wind blows one way does the traffic intrude.

However, that yearn for travel is still with me, searching for the love of experiencing other places.  I love the excitement of getting on a plane and landing somewhere I have never been.  Early this year it was Budapest, a wonderful place, and memories with my daughter.  We drank in the architecture, the history and culture.  We walked and walked finding enjoying the different areas.

Our next adventure will be to Alaska, my dream place to be.  Our once in a lifetime holiday whilst my mental abilities are still good.   I am not sure how long it will take me to save up but I am already excited to breathe in the remoteness, the stillness, and moments of being surrounded by peace.

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Do not smile with pity in your eyes

Do not smile at me with pity in your eyes
because then I see an empty heart
Do not write with sadness in your tone
I can still feel every word you write
Or speak in a way that simplifies your voice
in case somehow I have lost my intelligence

When you think of me look at who I am
not who I was when we bounced against each other
Remember the times we had being creative
laughing and talking till all hours
Tthrowing our dreams in the air hoping
to catch them when they floated close enough

Listen when I speak to you because I am still here
I can still feel the same when you discuss a thought
I can still laugh and throw ideas your way
You may see a few cracks but don’t dwell on them
enjoy what I still have and am inside
Understand what I have to say is important
worth a serious listen and response
as you would anyone else in conversation

Think of me with the love of the friendship
we have embraced before, secrets we shared
happy days, the troubled times we put to rest
Now bring that to our communication
A knowing smile, words special to just us
Remember my personality and understand me
Its still lurking in me waiting to peek out
and surprise you.

How do you reach someone who appears a shell?

Speak to me with music that I listened to
being collected on my iPod ready for use,
Speak to me with photographs that I have taken
perhaps seemingly random but
those decaying buildings held sway for me once.
Read to me: poetry, a crime novel, no romance please
George Elliot; my favourite classical author

Know me, that I am not a stereotype
When touch is important, know that I HATE it
Unless I have a manicure or pedicure
Know me in dyspraxia and dementia

Brush my hair I love that feeling
Give me my 18” of personal space
know me that I needed that once

Know me that I love all things alternative
and that my sense of humour may be dark

It matters not
that you may not see these things in me
But know that is what shaped
my personality to the person I became
And to each of you, dear friends
I showed you a side that remained yours alone

So
Do not smile with pity in your eyes
Let me see instead, love, understanding
or a wonderful wickedness of a life enjoyed