Take the Oral Histories Now of Your Ward…

October 3, 2011

By Attorney David Engler

There is nothing more lasting than memories. It is one of the cruel ironies that the diseases of the elderly like Alzheimer’s and dementia often rob our loved ones or wards of the past. I have advocated in the blog post: “Let Grandma Facebook” that we should try to teach seniors how to get on Facebook as an incredible tool for socializing. Without socialization, we start to diminish.

I have included the photo of my friend Ray who is blessed. He is 85; plays golf three times a week, travel the world with his wife and can tell a story. I was lucky enough this past weekend to learn how he spent the last months of World War II.

Ray and his ping-pong paddle!

It was easy enough to get in to the Army. No one really checked birth certificates, so being 16 or 17 was no problem. Ray enlisted and soon found out that his $30 dollar a month would be bumped up with a bonus of $50 if he agreed to jump from a plane and become an Army Ranger 11th Airborne Division. It was the end of 1944 and the war was going full-scale. Growing up in Brier Hill on the Northside of Youngstown and being one of 8 children during the depression meant that patriotism came easy. You grew up on a street where every kid was poor and didn’t know it. Every family on Sunday went to their respective ethnic church. Ray’s family was Polish so St. Kashmir was the place to pray. It also had a ping-pong table. He had played his cousins and every other kid on the Northside for years. He had a quick defense and could play from 8 feet off the table. No nickels or pennies wasted in a pinball machine, when 6 hours of fun was available at the Church.

By the time he finished basic training in Alabama and jump school at Fort Benning, he was deployed to Okinawa. He was one of the elite but by the time his company arrived the Emperor had surrendered after the Atomic Bomb was exploded and the Russians had invaded. It was September of 1945. The Japanese were completely compliant. They did as the Emperor directed. Sure there were holdouts on islands that did not get the message and one fought all the way until 1970(true!).

Ray was stationed in Sendai where the tsunami recently killed thousands. There was not a great deal of danger and the troops needed entertained, so there were Ping Pong tournaments. Ray took on all comers, even the Japanese. The picture I have attached is Ray holding the 1946 Pacific Rim Championship Ping Pong Paddle. He is like a real life Forest Gump, except Forest was shot at. The winner got a trip to stay at the Emperor’s Palace for two weeks. Imagine being 20 years old and living in a palace. There was no shortage of anything. America had won and Ray was the greatest Ping Pong player on this vanquished island-nation.

Ray is lucky because he has shared these stories with his children and grandchildren, but there is no reason they should not be captured with our camera phones, blogs and HD recorders. On the net, the memories can live forever on sites like Facebook, Tumblr and WordPress. Take the extra few minutes at your next visit and capture the video memories of these American treasures, our seniors.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Upcoming Holidays: Good Advice for Visiting Loved Ones with Dementia

September 9, 2011

“I read this great article about holiday visiting in the Columbus Dispatch” – Attorney David Engler

Good Advice for Visiting Loved Ones With Dementia
By Misti Crane

This upcoming holiday season of gathering, reminiscing and tradition also can bring sadness and uncertainty for those who love someone with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia.

To make the most of holiday visits, caregivers and other relatives and friends should accept what can’t be fixed and learn to offer support and bring joy to those affected by the disease, experts say.

During visits, “you have to learn to suppress any feelings that you have, put a big smile on your face and try to be as cheerful as you can,” said Dr. Leopold Liss, medical director of the Columbus Alzheimer Care Center.

One in 10 Americans 65 and older suffers with dementia. It affects almost half of those 85 or older, according to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.

People are prone to over-explaining reality when an evasive, yet truthful, answer would be best, Liss said.
Laralyn Sasaki, who lives in the Short North, said that her visits with her grandmother, who had dementia, improved significantly when she learned to answer questions that way.

“When she asked where her husband was, who had passed away several years before, we’d say, ‘You know, we haven’t seen him today’” said Sasaki, whose grandmother, Thelma Townsend, died three years ago at 97.

Learning to avoid correcting the person with dementia is essential, said Mari Dannhauer, program director at the Alzheimer’s Association of Central Ohio.

“We tell caregivers they’ve really won their last argument, because the person with dementia is not able to be rational in our world so, we kind of have to jump into their world.”

Insisting that someone remember your name is useless and potentially damaging, Liss said.
“You have to respect the fact that this is their reality. Don’t try to jerk them out of it because it might have negative results,” Liss said.

Helping also can mean avoiding things that create frustration.

Sasaki said she and her mother learned to tune into nature shows or old, happy movies rather than channels featuring current events and political candidates her grandmother didn’t recognize.

Her advice to others dealing with dementia is to visit loved ones rather than staying away out of fear of awkwardness or tension.

Sasaki was part of a team of people who volunteered their time recently to produce DVDs and CDs that feature Liss and offer caregivers advice.

At the holidays, caregivers should know that things don’t have to be perfect, nor do they have to be the same as every other year, Dannhauer said. Changing a home-cooked holiday party into a potluck can ease anxiety. And having family members visit in shifts rather than all at once can help, Dannhauer said.

She recommends involving the person with Alzheimer’s disease in activities such as singing carols or wrapping presents rather than assuming that they can’t or don’t want to participate. Interacting with children can be uplifting, and smiles and embraces are almost always a good thing, Liss said.

For information about central Ohio support groups and other resources for friends and family members of someone who has Alzheimer’s, call 1-800-272-3900 or visit http://www.alz.org/centralohio/

For information about The Art of Caring DVDs, go to http://www.theartofcaring.net/

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Let Grandma Facebook

September 7, 2011

By Attorney David Engler

Five years ago at this time Facebook had 12 million users. At the beginning of 2009 it had 150 million users. Today, Facebook has over 750 million users. The fastest growing demographic is users over 35. It’s time to put grandma and grandpa on Facebook.

We need to teach them the skills and create applications for ease of use. At first they might not understand what a Wall might be and perplexed if someone asks them to accept ‘chickens for their farm’. But the one thing Facebook can do for seniors is allow them to socialize.

There is nothing more important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle than continuing to socialize. Too many of our wards, our parents, aunts and uncles become isolated by physical immobility and the loss of friends to death and the movement of families from home communities.

The lack of socialization can slowly give way to earlier onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Studies have shown that the healthiest seniors are those that continue to lead busy and interacted lives. It’s not on Facebook yet but we can create social groups built around military units or ships or graduating nursing classes from the 40’s and 50’s.

A welcome expenditure is to buy your mom a laptop and set her up on Facebook, Also if the grandkids accept her as a friend, then maybe they will be less likely to post compromising pictures of themselves that they would regret later.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

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