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Meeting the Dog Next Door

  • Neighbor: Her name is Zoe.
  • Me: Hi, Zoe! Is it okay to pet her?
  • Neighbor: Of course.
  • Me: Oh Zoe, I have been loving you from afar...
  • Neighbor: She prefers to be loved up close, like the rest of us.
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Dibi found me. June 2014, Charleston.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmother lately. Maybe it’s because of all the colors in bloom. We planted our little pots — once a stoop garden — and they’re happy so far here in Ohio.
Last night, I spent the evening at a coffee shop, writing my latest post for AARP. The sky was black when I snagged a window seat and plugged in my laptop. I started writing about Dibi and Alzheimer’s disease and how our family supported her (and each other) for so many years.
The rain started and the petunias in the hanging baskets outside danced. I wrote and wrote, and once it was time to leave, the rain stopped. The sky was ash grey with bright pink and yellow clouds. I stopped to breathe it all in. Hi, Dibi.

Dibi found me. June 2014, Charleston.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmother lately. Maybe it’s because of all the colors in bloom. We planted our little pots — once a stoop garden — and they’re happy so far here in Ohio.

Last night, I spent the evening at a coffee shop, writing my latest post for AARP. The sky was black when I snagged a window seat and plugged in my laptop. I started writing about Dibi and Alzheimer’s disease and how our family supported her (and each other) for so many years.

The rain started and the petunias in the hanging baskets outside danced. I wrote and wrote, and once it was time to leave, the rain stopped. The sky was ash grey with bright pink and yellow clouds. I stopped to breathe it all in. Hi, Dibi.

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#SentimentalSunday. The 80s, Indiana.
Mom, thanks for the road map.

#SentimentalSunday. The 80s, Indiana.

Mom, thanks for the road map.

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Yesterday, a group of us got to talking about whether Alzheimer’s and dementia units are the best solutions for people who need round-the-clock care. I’m torn. Yes, people with dementia deserve to have aides and nurses and doctors well-versed in their disease. Yes, special units are often designed environments that allow for maximum freedom (like this ‘Dementia Village' in the Netherlands).

But a part of me cringes. Why separate them? 

My professor, though a believer in the units, believes dementia helps us rethink reality. Maybe it’s our problem, the (supposedly) cognitively sound ones, who can’t see beyond “right” answers. I agree.

I’m going to keep thinking on this. In the meantime, my April AARP post, coincidentally, relates.

Conversations with people with dementia can be challenging, but perhaps that’s because they feel different at first. The give and take, the natural back and forth of asking questions and sharing information, can seem imbalanced. But who, exactly, has been in a perfectly balanced conversation? Do they exist? And, if so, are they any fun?

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Hello, spring. April 2014, Ohio.
Sometimes when I’m busy with school work, a little stressed about how a paper or a presentation might turn out, I stop myself for a second.
"Have fun," I whisper, to me. "That’s what this is all about."

Hello, spring. April 2014, Ohio.

Sometimes when I’m busy with school work, a little stressed about how a paper or a presentation might turn out, I stop myself for a second.

"Have fun," I whisper, to me. "That’s what this is all about."

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Lately, some language has been getting under my skin. I cringe when people use “cute” and “adorable” to describe older adults. So when I heard about Grandma Betty a few weeks ago, I was immediately drawn to all the “so cute!” comments. Ugh. “Does this bother you, too?!” I asked a Scripps professor in the hallway. “Not really,” he said with a shrug. Hmm. I figured he’d agree. At any rate, it bugs me as an advocate for older generations, so I decided to get on my AARP soapbox and have my say. What do you think? Cut the “cute” or keep it?