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    Captivating Fun from Your Armchair July 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

    By Karen Love

    www.explore.org – Nursery Cam-Dog Bless You

     

    There are so many ways of being meaningfully engaged. One endlessly interesting way of engagement is available to anyone with an internet connection. The website, www.explore.org, provides a great variety of live and taped animal web cam action ranging from pandas and chipmunks to elephants and butterflies. There are also cams of scenic places such as giant Hawaiian waves, mountain trails, and icebergs. Not only is the web cam viewing free but it is available 24 hours a day.

    tags: advanced alzheimers disease, Alzheimers activities, alzheimers caregivers stress, dementia activities, dementia care, dementia products, ideas for Alzheimers, living well with dementia, living with dementia, love and dementia, make life better dementia
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    Great Honors for Small Investments June 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

    By Karen Love

    In an article recently published in the Australian Journal of Dementia Care, Dr. Al Power tells a story about a retired farmer living with dementia in an assisted living home in Iowa. The farmer repeatedly was trying to exit a back door. Each time he was redirected by a staff member because they did not feel he was safe walking outside alone. His attempts to go outside became more and more insistent. The administrator asked the staff not to interfere the next time he opened the door, but simply watch from the doorway to see what would happen. The former farmer walked to the fence at the back of the property to watch the cows in an adjoining field. After watching the cattle graze for 10 minutes, he turned around and came back inside. The staff learned from his family later that ‘checking on the cows’ was a daily pattern of his as a farmer. Since he could see cows out the window at the assisted living community, it was normal for him to want to go check on them.

    tags: living well with dementia, make life better dementia, understanding dementia

    Living Well with Dementia: Applying the Pygmalion Effect May 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

    By Karen Love

    This is Part II of a two-part series on ‘living well with dementia’.

    In 1968, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson published groundbreaking research that showed teacher expectations of students became self-fulfilling prophecies. At the beginning of a school year first and second grade students’ IQs were tested. The researchers randomly selected a group of students regardless of their actual test results and led the teachers to believe that this group was capable of great academic achievement. At the end of the year the students were retested. The group labeled high academic achievers did, in fact, show higher achievement than the other students. Robert Rosenthal summarized this research finding as – “What one person expects of another can come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

    tags: advanced alzheimers disease, Alzheimers activities, Communication and dementia, dementia activities, dementia caregiving, dementia items, dementia products, families and dementia, living fully with dementia, living well with dementia, living with dementia, person-centered dementia, understanding dementia

    Living Well with Dementia: Valuable Lessons from Kate Swaffer April 14, 2015 | 0 Comments

    By Karen Love

    This is Part I of a two-part series on “living well with dementia”.


    Living Well with Dementia: Valuable Lessons from Kate SwafferSeven years ago at the age of 49 Kate Swaffer was given a diagnosis of younger onset dementia and told to quit her job, put her affairs in order, and look into long-term care options. This spunky Australian lady decided not to heed the doctor’s advice. “If I had received a diagnosis of a stroke or brain injury, I would have been enrolled in various therapies to address symptoms of the condition. Dementia is the only illness I know of where we are basically told to go home and give up.”

    Living Well with Dementia: Valuable Lessons from Kate Swaffer

    tags: Alzheimers stigma, Communication and dementia, dementia stigma, engaging someone with dementia, living fully with dementia, make life better dementia, person-centered dementia, understanding dementia

    Words Matter when talking about Dementia March 5, 2015 | 1 Comment

    By FIT Interactive

    Some words are offensive, insensitive, and can be stigmatizing. An example of this on a national scale is the passing of Rosa’s Law in 2010. The law replaced the term ‘mental retardation’ with ‘intellectual disability’ in all federal language in an acknowledgement that ‘mental retardation’ was an offensive, stigmatizing term.

    As more and more people living with mild cognitive impairment and early stage forms of dementia from around the world have begun using the internet to express themselves, they are speaking out about the many inappropriate words and terms used to refer to them and their condition. While it is infrequent nowadays to hear the words ‘senile’ or ‘not all there’ used, terms such as ‘demented,’ ‘sufferer,’ ‘victim,’ and ‘patient’ are still regularly used. These are hurtful and diminishing labels.

    tags: Alzheimers activities, Alzheimers stigma, Communication and dementia, culture and dementia, dementia activities, dementia stigma, families and dementia, living fully with dementia, living with dementia, understanding dementia
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    Authentic Musings on Dementia: Motorcycle Grandma February 21, 2015 | 0 Comments

    By Karen Love

    Conducting research into the science of dementia engagement has been a heartwarming and interesting journey. Research shows that when an individual living with dementia is comfortable and doing something of interest to them, the brain releases ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters. These natural brain chemicals can temporarily spark new neuronal brain connections resulting in the individual’s ability to say or do something they otherwise would not have the ability any longer to do. During testing for the fidelity of dementia engagement products over many years with people living with dementia and their family members and others, we’ve been privileged to witness many special moments.
    tags: Alzheimers activities, culture and dementia, dementia activities, dementia caregiving, eldercare, families and dementia, grandparents dementia, living with dementia, musings on dementia, understanding dementia

    Love of My Life February 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

    By FIT Interactive

    The loss of cognitive abilities is not the same as a loss of personhood. Seeing the whole “person” and not just their dementia makes the difference between having dementia and living fully with dementia. To live fully includes being meaningfully engaged and experiencing purpose and self-worth in daily life as well as having emotional connections to others. These are essential components of emotional well-being at any stage of dementia.

    FIT Kits® dementia engagement products are designed especially to help spark emotional connections, engagement, and fun. Because all FIT Kit products are extensively field tested with people living with dementia and family members, we get to share in many dear and heartwarming moments with them. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, special memories of some loving experiences come to mind.

    tags: Communication and dementia, families and dementia, holidays dementia, living fully with dementia, living with dementia, love and dementia

    This is Why We Specially Source Dementia Engagement Items January 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

    By FIT Interactive

    Recently I gave a presentation to family care partners of people living with dementia. I brought a number of FIT dementia engagement products to show as examples of how the items also enhance physical mobility and function. Play clay, for example, is satisfying to squeeze, shape, and mold, but it also is a great way to ‘exercise’ arms, hands, and fingers that may not get as much physical movement to keep them flexible and strong to do things such as button buttons and take the top off toothpaste. The pinching motion of picking up and positioning puzzle pieces is good fine motor physical movement of fingers and hands as is turning the pages of a book.

    tags: activities for memory impairment, Alzheimers activities, dementia activities, dementia brain activity, dementia caregiving, dementia engagement, dementia products, families and dementia, gifts for someone with dementia, ideas for Alzheimers, intelligence and dementia, living with dementia, person-centered dementia, understanding dementia

    Tips for buying a gift for someone with dementia December 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

    By FIT Interactive

    When deciding what to buy as a gift, think about the interests of the person who is living with dementia and the types of activities that bring them joy.

    We have created a chart to help you choose a gift. Click here to read our chart to help you select the best Kits® for your loved one. 

     

     ~ Giving a gift that triggers interaction, is way more fun than something that will go onto a shelf, never to be used!

    tags: advanced alzheimers disease, Alzheimers activities, dementia activities, dementia engagement, dementia products, families and dementia, gifts for someone with dementia, holidays Alzheimers, holidays dementia, ideas for Alzheimers, living fully with dementia, love and dementia, make life better dementia

    Making Holidays Bright for You and A Loved One Living With Dementia December 2, 2014 | 0 Comments

    By FIT Interactive


    As wonderful as it can be having family together for holidays, it can be overwhelming for a person who is living with dementia. Having just celebrated Thanksgiving, some of you may have experienced this with a loved one with dementia. With Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s right around the corner, this is a good time to review pointers so the event is enjoyable for everyone.

    “This has been our most delightful visit with (my mother)
    in years – not because she changed, but because we did.”

    - Family member working with Steven Sabat, PhD[1]

     

    This touching quote sums up the benefit of being prepared. Luckily, successfully preparing for a holiday with a loved one living with dementia is easy. Here are 4 tips to help you make the holidays bright for you and a loved one living with dementia.

    tags: Alzheimers activities, dementia activities, dementia caregiving, dementia items, dementia products, gifts for someone with dementia, grandparents dementia, holidays Alzheimers, holidays dementia, living fully with dementia, living with dementia, love and dementia, person-centered dementia

    This is not what advanced dementia looks like November 4, 2014 | 1 Comment

    By FIT Interactive

    All too often public media shows someone with advanced dementia sitting slumped over in a wheelchair. That is not what advanced dementia looks like; it is what poor care looks like. The woman is slumped over because she has nothing to do or is tired and no one helped her lay down.

    As a dementia care professional working in the field for over three decades, this is something that makes me really sad. How did our country get to a place where the sight of someone slumped over in a wheelchair - regardless of their age and health condition – would be considered OK?

    tags: advanced alzheimers disease, advanced dementia, Alzheimers stigma, culture and dementia, dementia activities, dementia caregiving, dementia engagement, dementia stigma, intelligence and dementia, living with dementia, person-centered dementia, understanding dementia

    An Extraordinary Video About Dementia October 8, 2014 | 1 Comment

    By Karen Love

    An Extraordinary Video About Dementia

    Every once in a while something special comes along that has the power to stop us in our tracks. The newly released 16-minute video, “Person-Centered Matters” about people living with dementia and those who care about them has such a power. 

    Broadcast and print media generally only portray the debilitating aspects of dementia, including Alzheimer’s – the loses and difficulties they and their families face.  Certainly there are those, but there are also positive aspects as well including having fun together, laughter, and moments of joy.  As a result of a lopsided portrayal, care partners and the general public end up with a stigmatized, fearful perspective of dementia and don’t know to find positive aspects. 

    tags: Alzheimers stigma, dementia caregiving, dementia engagement, dementia stigma, engagement, engaging someone with dementia, families and dementia, living fully with dementia, living with dementia, make life better dementia, person-centered dementia, understanding dementia
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    Igniting the Spirit for someone living with dementia August 31, 2014 | 0 Comments

    By Elia Femia

    Karen and I met Mrs. N before we met her husband, who was finishing up lunch and running a few minutes late. We had brought various FIT Kit® engagement items to the continuing care retirement community where Mr. and Mrs. N resided (Mrs. N in an independent living apartment and Mr. N in the nursing home). For us, working with people is one of our favorite activities. Mrs. N, a somewhat reluctant spouse, started our time together by expressing her skepticism. She didn’t think that our “toys” would be helpful, because “he just doesn’t want to do anything, no matter how hard I try.” 

    We have heard this sentiment many times by people who care about a person living with dementia. Often the focus is on what the individual living with dementia can no longer accomplish and on providing for their daily care, making caregivers feel stressed and frustrated. For Mrs. N, there was a huge sense of loss.

    tags: Alzheimers activities, alzheimers caregivers stress, dementia activities, dementia caregiving, dementia engagement, engaging someone with dementia, families and dementia, living fully with dementia, living with dementia, person-centered dementia
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    FIT’s Story - Engaging People Who are Living with Dementia and Alzheimers July 30, 2014 | 1 Comment

    By FIT Interactive

    FIT Kit’s story began in 2004, when Elia Femia and Karen Love were brought together on an Alzheimer’s demonstration research project in Washington, DC.  Karen had been pioneering the use of Montessori-based techniques to better engage people living with dementia socially, emotionally, and physically.  She experienced good results in nursing homes and assisted living.  The demonstration project tested the effect in the adult day program setting.  Elia was serving on Alzheimer’s Association of the National Capital area Board of Directors and was the research investigator on the project. Their meeting and partnership turned out to be providential. They both had similar passions for wanting to make life more enjoyable for people with dementia. Happily, they also found that they lived 5 blocks apart in Falls Church, VA.   

    In her 20+ year career in long term care, Karen had many times experienced the ‘spark’ that can light up in the eyes of someone with dementia who is meaningfully engaged. Elia knew the magic existed, but seeing Karen at work, quickly learned how the right approach and mindset could ignite the spirit. The person enlivens!  Four years after their first project together, in 2008, they started FIT Interactive and with funding provided by the National Institute on Aging, began the work to research, develop, and test FIT Kits!  

    tags: advanced alzheimers disease, advanced dementia, Alzheimers activities, dementia activities, dementia engagement, dementia products, engaging someone with dementia, ideas for Alzheimers, living fully with dementia, living with dementia, understanding dementia
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    My Grandmother, My Beloved May 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

    By Elia Femia

    Today, May 20, 2014, my grandmother is one of few in the world who can look back over 100 years of life. I don’t know what she would say about reaching this centennial achievement. She has walked more steps than what my pedometer has ever measured; she has witnessed more happenings than all the movies and television that I ever watched; and she has experienced more history, both big and small, than what CNN has covered since their initial broadcast.

       My grandmother lives many miles away, with a vast ocean separating us. She experiences daily tinges of memory loss that affect her ability to live independently. She has other health conditions that take up her time and energy. I would perfectly understand if these issues took center stage in her life. I would perfectly understand if she would prefer to keep our visits short, because she tires easily. I would perfectly understand if she missed my own birthday because it wasn’t on her calendar or that no one reminded her of the day.

       But my beautiful grandmother isn’t like that. Her words, still spoken with a smile on her face, have always been, “Come,” “Welcome,” and “Until we meet again.” As we know, there is power in words and power in the way those words are spoken. For me, as a young child, as a restless teenager, and a trepid adult, that power always gave me comfort. She always gave me comfort. I know it may not be politically correct, or perhaps it’s just plain selfish, to feel a little bit of gratitude for her dementia – because I get to hear over and over again just how much she loves and cherishes me. I get to hear over and over again how proud she is of me for just being me. And never having heard the stories of survival and sacrifice during my father’s earlier years, I get to hear those stories too.

    tags: advanced alzheimers disease, children and dementia, dementia activities, dementia caregiving, families and dementia, grandparents dementia, gratitude in dementia, ideas for Alzheimers, living fully with dementia, living with dementia, person-centered dementia, understanding dementia
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    The Need to Alter Our Communication Techniques for Someone Living with Dementia May 5, 2014 | 6 Comments

    By Karen Love

    Did you know that spoken words only account for 7% of communication?  The remaining 93% of communication is conveyed through body language, vocal tone and pitch.  If you are surprised by this information you are in good company - most people don’t realize this.  Human brains process communication in milliseconds so we aren’t aware this process is even occurring.   

    Communication style becomes especially important when there is someone in your life that is living with dementia.  Communication often becomes one of the most challenging aspects because we try to use the same communication technique with someone living with dementia as for those who don’t have this brain impairment.  Understanding a few basic elements of communication can make a positive difference.

    tags: Alzheimers tips, Communication and dementia, dementia activities, dementia engagement, engaging someone with dementia, ideas for Alzheimers, intelligence and dementia, living well with dementia, living with dementia, person-centered dementia, talk to someone with dementia, understanding dementia
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    Dementia - Laugh more to stress less April 4, 2014 | 1 Comment

    By Elia Femia

    Not long ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Alan, who with his wife Sherrie, agreed to participate in a video that FIT Interactive was co-producing. The room at the adult day center where he attends had been transformed into a film studio – filled with lights, cameras, and action (which included the film’s director, co-director, and production assistant). Having never met Alan, I was nervous about his reaction to the set. I didn’t know if he would feel overwhelmed by us, or if he might get upset or agitated by our asking him to do things he may not want to do. 

    That December day, Alan and Sherrie taught me some very valuable lessons that began the moment they arrived. Alan looked at the camera around my neck, smiled, and said: “Hey, is there some movie star here that you plan on taking photos of?” I smiled back, saying, “You’re the star today!” and without a moment’s hesitation, Alan replied, “Hmm. . . you must not get out much.” And with that and the laughter that followed, I knew it was going to be a good day.

    tags: Caregiving alzheimers, Communication and dementia, dementia activities, dementia caregiving, dementia items, engaging someone with dementia, humor dementia, ideas for Alzheimers, intelligence and dementia, living fully with dementia, living with dementia, make life better dementia, person-centered dementia
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    It Is Possible to Make Car Trips Pleasant Experiences March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

    By Karen Love

    If you have ever been in a car with a young child you’ve heard, “Are we there yet?” – probably many times.  Young children ask this question because they do not yet understand the concept of time and they become restless after a while in the car.  People who are living with dementia can also experience restlessness during car trips but for a different reason.  Their restlessness is a result of impairment in their short-term memory – they forget why they are in the car.  

    Car trips are typically an inevitable part of life to take someone with dementia to appointments, visits to family and friends, and for attending special events or some other type of outing. While it is easy to become frustrated hearing “Where are we going?” many times during a trip, a little advanced planning can turn a stressful experience into a pleasant one. 

    tags: Alzheimers activities, alzheimers caregivers stress, Caregiving alzheimers, Communication and dementia, dementia activities, dementia products, holidays Alzheimers, living fully with dementia, living with dementia, trips with dementia, understanding dementia, vacation dementia
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    Can I Call You Sweetheart? Knowing the person who has dementia February 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

    By Elia Femia

    When my husband and I began dating 21 years ago, he started calling me “honey”. He used the word endearingly, but frankly, it drove me crazy. “How was your day, honey?”“What do you want to do this weekend, honey?” It just rubbed me the wrong way. He probably wondered how this term of endearment could evoke such a strong visceral response. 

    It mattered to me because words matter. More importantly, how and why we say them matter.  As human beings, we are hard-wired to receive a word’s meaning as well as the emotions that surround that word. I intellectually understood that when he said “honey,” he was being sweet. Yet I couldn't escape the emotional reaction I felt when he used that word with me. The current debate on the Washington Redskins’ name is one societal example of a word’s emotional meaning and impact. 

    tags: Alzheimers activities, Communication and dementia, dementia activities, dementia caregiving, families and dementia, gifts for someone with dementia, intelligence and dementia, living with dementia, love and dementia
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    Engagement: A Vital Element of Well-Being While Living with Dementia January 30, 2014 | 1 Comment

    By Karen Love

    I spoke on the phone recently with a gentleman in Florida who is living with advanced early stage dementia.  I was struck by the high level of excitement and joy in his voice as he explained what he was doing (dementia advocacy work).  I asked him how he might feel if he wasn’t doing this engaging work.  He was silent as he considered my question – then responded that he likely would be depressed. 

    His response was no surprise because part of human nature is to seek out meaningful activity.   Prisoners of war, for example, describe some amazing things they did to relieve the boredom of inactivity such as writing books in their heads and doing hundreds of sit-ups.  Research is slowly making its way to providing the science and evidence base of what many have known for decades – being engaged in meaningful activity improves how we feel. 

    tags: advanced alzheimers disease, Alzheimers activities, dementia, dementia activities, dementia brain activity, dementia engagement, families and dementia, intelligence and dementia, living fully with dementia, living with dementia
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    The Woman in the Mirror December 31, 2013 | 1 Comment

    By Elia Femia

    Who do I see when I look in a mirror? Most often, I see my 43-year old self, with more wrinkles around the eyes and silver streaks in my hair than I’d like, but still a face that is as recognizable and familiar to me as the taste of chocolate on a sleepy Sunday afternoon. 

    Who does my 70-year old mother see when she looks in the mirror? She says she sees a woman, who like me, is still familiar but who is becoming less and less recognizable as herself. In her mind’s mirror, her reflection should be of someone whose eyes are brighter, whose hair is shinier, and whose smile is smoother than the face that stares back at her.

    And who does a person living with dementia see in a mirror? 

    tags: advanced alzheimers disease, advanced dementia, Alzheimers activities, dementia activities, families and dementia, grandparents dementia, living fully with dementia, living with dementia, person-centered dementia, understanding dementia
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    Why Can Grandma Read But Not Know What Day It Is? Understanding Dementia. December 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

    By Karen Love

    Earlier this month, I had an opportunity to spend some time with Belva, a 90-year old elder who is living with dementia, and her family. Towards the end of the afternoon, her adult granddaughter stopped by to visit. The granddaughter made sure to spend some quiet, one-on-one time with her grandmother so they could have fun together. They sat down and looked at FIT’s “Wonders of Sports” book that is part of the SPORTS FIT KIT. As they were looking at the pictures and laughing, Belva read aloud the few words that accompanied the pictures. Afterwards, the granddaughter asked me why her grandmother could still read words yet not be able to do other things such as remember what day it is. Being able to do some things and not other things is a common dynamic for people who have dementia, but one that is not always understood.

    Positron emission tomography (PET) scan imaging is a helpful way to explain why this dynamic exists for people who are living with dementia. Different parts of the brain control different functions.   The PET scan images below show typical patterns of brain activity for four different cognitive functions:

    1. Reading words  (top left image)
    2. Hearing words  (top right image)
    3. Thinking about words  (lower left image)
    4. Saying words  (lower right image)
    tags: activities for memory impairment, advanced alzheimers disease, brain and dementia, Communication and dementia, dementia activities, dementia brain activity, intelligence and dementia, living fully with dementia, living with dementia, person-centered dementia, talk to someone with dementia, understanding dementia
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    When we’ve no place to go. . . let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! December 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

    By Elia Femia

    In my household, the holiday season sparks some of our favorite traditions: holiday singing, holiday baking, and the construction of our much-anticipated annual gingerbread house. I wish I could say that the holidays don't involve stress, but I'd be lying if I did. For every jingle bell that I rock out to this year, I admit that I'll also be wishing that I could stay in bed whilst visions of sugar plums dance in my head. Topping the list of hassles: family. Don't get me wrong; I love my family, but there's nothing like family togetherness over the holidays that makes me feel so thankful one minute and so "I'm going to pull my hair out" the next.

    For families who care about a loved one living with dementia, the holidays can bring in stress as easily as winter's chill can sneak inside the door–-and the anticipatory stress can by itself be hard. How or what will Mom (or Dad) do when "confronted" by family members who know who they are, but whom they can't remember? Might she say something or do something that will be inappropriate or embarrassing? How do I explain to long-distant or occasionally-seen relatives why she repeats the same stories or the same question over and over again? How do I respond if they claim that nothing's even wrong?

    tags: Alzheimers activities, Alzheimers tips, Caregiving alzheimers, dementia activities, dementia products, gifts for someone with dementia, holidays dementia, ideas for Alzheimers, living fully with dementia, living well with dementia, living with dementia, understanding dementia
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    Raising Mom: When roles reverse, can you find a new normal? November 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

    By Elia Femia

    I met Kelly over 20 years ago in the small Pennsylvania town where I spent my teenage years. Although she was only 5 feet tall, she arrived larger than life, to me and to my elder friend, Jan. She arrived with a small bag of groceries, and with the efficiency of a drill sergeant, she quickly put the items away – milk in the refrigerator, coffee in the cabinet, cereal in the pantry, and a small box of chocolates on the kitchen table.

    I had spent a happy afternoon with Jan but it wasn't until she saw those chocolates that her face really lit up. Then Kelly said in no uncertain terms, "No eating chocolate until after dinner," and Jan's smile disappeared as quickly as it came.

    Jan looked over to me, and for a moment, I thought she would protest. Instead, she began to list a series of complaints about her day. Kelly listened briefly before interrupting. "Aren't you going to introduce me to your friend?" Jan stopped mid-sentence, stared at me for a moment, and said, "Oh my, I'm so sorry."

    And she announced very clearly to me, "This is my daughter, Kelly."

    tags: Alzheimers activities, children and dementia, dementia activities, dementia engagement, engaging someone with dementia, families and dementia, grandparents dementia, ideas for Alzheimers, living fully with dementia, living well with dementia, living with dementia, raising parents
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