the wings of Memories
by Karen Miller
creator/owner of Memory Jogging Puzzles
There was a sequence of television shows and commercials about
Alzheimer's Disease, and then I saw Muhammad Ali watch his daughter
Laila, dance on “Dancing with the Stars”. His presence
had a huge impact on me and it still brings tears to my eyes thinking
about it. (He reminded me of my mother)
it strange how someone or a television show will take you right
back to that moment of time and you feel the hurt and
see the sorrow in the eyes.
He was unable to show any emotions but his daughter knew he cared.
I thought there has to be a way to reach those
suffering from memory loss conditions.
My mother passed away several years ago, before
the terms of Alzheimer’s and Dementia were common, suddenly
all of her symptoms, struggles and actions were fresh in my mind.
a few days I started researching “Activity Needs”
for Alzheimer’s by calling Memory Treatment Centers and
talking with Activity Directors.
background is in graphic, web design and marketing, because of
this, I felt I could design some activities; without this background,
I could not afford to hire it done.
of the past
Mother had a massive stroke at age 50 following surgery, small
strokes and memory loss followed. Her physical capabilities easily
done at one time were taken away from her in a second.
thought patterns that had flowed easily before had been intercepted;
now simple words could not be uttered and she was paralyzed on
the right side.
was a jolt for my father, five children and especially my lovely
mother but unfortunately, we could not hear her words but we could
see the fear in her eyes.
truly believe when someone is stricken with a stroke, Alzheimer’s
or dementia they are prisoners within themselves. I feel that
is why they have the outbursts of anger and frustration.
am not a doctor only a close observer. I feel we can not communicate
with our loved ones the way we used to and must learn different
ways. This is sad not only for the patient, but their loved ones
standing by their side and the caregivers who watch them closely.
I’m not sure who suffers most, the patient or the observer.
My father cared for mother many years before she went into a care
center. It was very difficult for him, but I never heard him complain
and she was difficult at times. He was protective of her behavior.
this time I watched my mother become very depressed and angry
towards my father. She began to resent the fact that he had to
do many things for her.
was her hands, her feet and her voice at times and she did not
like it, but she never stopped trying, she was a survivor. More
than anything she wanted to be the way she used to be.
I’m sure they both had a straight beam to heaven when they
was difficult for her to convey what wanted and became frustrated
when we could not understand. Trying to help we would guess what
she was trying to say and this upset her even
know she was frustrated and angry because of her condition and
then it became a way of life for everyone.
Mother was never going to be the way
she used to be.
memory got progressively worse, at times she would remember things
in the far past but not remember turning the stove on. She needed
to be watched very carefully for her own safety and those around
had all the mood swings and sometimes they would come very quickly.
It was difficult to keep her occupied besides just sitting in
front of the TV watching soaps or shadows. There were no age appropriate
activities for her to do and she felt insulted when given a child’s
painting book or puzzle.
also know, if I would have been in her shoes, I would have felt
the same way and probably acted the same way or may be worse.
I understand, when we are young, we are trying to cope or reacting
to the situation.
is difficult for me to understand is WHY years
later these patient needs have never been met.
After contacting Activity Directors throughout the state of Illinois,
I discovered they all had the same needs. I contacted Activity
Directors in other states and I heard the same issues.
was shocked and excited at the same time, because I realized I
had found “a need”.
it was up to me to fill it. Age appropriate, stimulate conversations
and the patients enjoyed puzzles but there were not any they could
gave me the blueprint all I had to do was
When I was a child, mother always had a card table up with a puzzle
of many small pieces on it. Both of my parents worked on it, but
I think mom did it most often and that was one activity she missed
her stroke the pieces were too small and too many for her to complete.
She would become frustrated and never completed one again. If
there was a puzzle that had few pieces it was a child’s
puzzle and she didn’t like those, she was not a
frustrations and difficulties working with various activities
has been my model creating memory jogging puzzles and memory cards.
would have handled the puzzle pieces easily and would have been
successful with both the puzzles and card games.
Games and Training Tips
like most human beings am very good at hiding my thoughts"
Quote from book -
From The Inside Out by
Richard Taylor, PHD
Collection of brain teasers, riddles, puzzles, logic problems
with answers. Test your skills at cracking
continued from Memory Games page
she came to “In the Garden” she started to reminisce,
remembering when she was a young girl.
Sunday her mother would gather her and her siblings, dress them
all up in pretty dresses and go to church.
they would meet their cousins and everyone sang together.
(This event made a memory implant on Mary and she shared her stories).
was wonderful listening to her and watching her facial expressions,
she was pulled right back there with her mom getting her ready.
was called away from her for a few moments.
I returned, the songbook was on the table and she was again doing
smiled and sat down, she looked up… smiled, then paused,
looking at me she asked, “Do
I know you?”
heart sank, “not really, I’m a new friend” and
we continued to talk. But the rhythm was gone, the feeling in
the air not the same.
didn’t bother her but it had an impact on me.
guess I was the one who was missing the rhythm and feeling in
truly is more difficult to be an observer than the person having
time I visit the center I look for her, she is 94. I love her
smile and energy, even though she never remembers me, we talk
and laugh like old friends. (I think she recognizes my voice).
learned… if you connect with someone with Alzheimer’s
or Dementia, stay in their moment as long as you can. A five-minute
distraction is all it takes for many to lose focus. (Strange,
many of us are the same way, but if we desire we can get back,
you are a loved one, keep a journal of those long forgotten moments
you are hearing about. You are making memories and one day, you
will reflect back and smile. ©2011 karen miller
labeled her: Doesn't speak!
began working with my polish lady over a year ago with my puzzles.
The last several months she joined my art class of drawing and
was told she was Polish and never spoke.
I make sure she sits beside me enabling me to help her understand
what we are doing by showing her if needed.
struggled with my 6 piece puzzle and it is baby steps in this
class. If she stays close to inside the line, she gets encouragement.
I show her how and point it out.
she has a pencil in both hands scribbling away. I gently take
one away, she favors the right hand so we keep that one.
is always cooperative but shows no expression.
couple of months ago, at the end of class she kept pushing her
paper my way and I kept pushing it back telling her to take
it with her. She pushed it back and said "you keep,
for helping me".
I was shocked, thanked her and there were no more words. A couple
more sessions, no words were spoken. (I am with the group about
There is always lots of chatter and laughter around the table,
the ladies are reminiscing when they were young and what they
did. Almost like a bridge game, but the bridge is to
At the end of our last group meeting, someone asked when I was
returning and I told them. As I was gathering my items, my favorite
Polish lady, repeated my sentence about when I was returning.
I couldn't believe it, I smiled and said yes, I will be here
next month and you are talking to me, thank you.
It was GREAT ...made my day and I am anxious for the next time
But then I began wondering... has anyone tried to connect with
her? Does someone who speaks polish come in and visit with her?
Most of the assistants speak spanish and have their schedules.
She has been labeled "doesn't speak"
because she is polish, but she is definitely listening
and capable of speaking if she wants to.
How lonely it must be for her. If anyone speaks another language
and you have time volunteer at a care center.
There may be someone there just waiting to say "hi"
and see your smile. ###
©2011 karen miller
Memory Jogging Puzzles and Memory Cards have themes by Norman
Rockwell – Sarah S. Weber - The Saturday Evening Post