Here's Johnny - 'Stress-busting' memory loss
Several years ago, esteemed New Zealand songwriter Neil Finn co-wrote a song with the Dixie Chicks guaranteed to wring tears from all but the driest eyes. (Finn's version with his band, Crowded House, is, in this unpaid music critic's opinion, far superior.) It's called 'Silent House.' "These walls have eyes Rows of photographs With faces like mine Who do we become Without knowing where we started from?" Unlike many Dear Readers, I've not had a close family member stricken by Alzheimer's or other dementia-related diseases. An elderly uncle and aunt of mine (each married to another, healthy person) lived the last years of their lives in these shadows, but they, and their loved ones, seemed not to have felt the worst of the symptoms. Each were gentle people, as was my saintly paternal grandmother, who, bedridden and a few weeks before her passing, asked a granddaughter how old she was. "Ninety-five," said Debbie. "I think fifty-nine sounds better," responded Grandma. All too often, the long goodbye is far less peaceful for the victims and those who look after them. I can only imagine how frightening it must be to live with these conditions, or live with and love someone afflicted by them. That's why I thought this week's edition of Here's Johnny was best devoted to publicizing a program meant to help those caught in what must sometimes seem like an unending nightmare. "It's true I'm missing you And I stand alone Inside your room." The free "Stress-Busting Program for Family Caregivers" began last Thursday and continues for seven more Thursdays in the Daisy Hill Senior Living meeting room from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. It's sponsored by the Bluegrass Area Agency on Aging and paid for with federal funds. Caregivers will learn about the stress of these diseases and its effects, practice stress management techniques and develop problem-solving skills. They'll also be given a free workbook, relaxation CD, and a DVD. A news release said the material in the program is based on research and feedback from the many caregivers who've taken part. "Alzheimer's disease and other dementias cause high levels of stress and anxiety among family caregivers. How caregivers deal with the stresses . may be critical to their well-being. The well-being of caregivers is essential not only because caregivers are important as people, but also because caregivers who care for themselves take better care of their loved ones," the release read. With permission, I plan on attending one evening to talk to some of the caregivers. (Folks who'd like to sign up for the program or learn more about it can call Loretta Henderson at (859) 269-8021, ext. 299.) Until then, I'll thank them for their courage via The Sun, and Mr. Finn, et al., for an unforgettable song about those who've forgotten, and the ones who love them. "Everything that you made by hand Everything that you know by heart I will try to connect all the pieces you left I will carry it on and let you forget I'll remember the years when your mind was clear All the laughter and life that filled up this silent house."