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Father’s Day for Those with Dementia

For those who have fathers or grandfathers with dementia, Father’s Day may be a hard day. When shared memories disappear, we need to find creative ways to celebrate our relationships. Here are a few ideas drawn from a song sung by Kenny Chesney, entitled “While He Still Knows Who I Am.”

Between the Pond and the Woods

If you’ve never heard this song, it’s a good place to start when you’re struggling with the emotional load of Father’s Day.

While He still Knows Who I Am                                                                        (Written by Dave Berg, Tom Douglas, and Georgia Middleman)

Mama says he can’t remember
Daddy thinks that he still can
I’m goin back to see him
While he still knows who I am

This time I’m gonna hug him instead of just shakin hands
Gonna tell him that I love him
While he still knows who I am

I only knew him as my father
I’m gonna get to know the man
I’m goin back to see him
While he still knows who I am

This time I’m gonna kiss him, instead of just shakin hands
Gonna tell him that I love him
While he still knows who I am

I know I can’t turn back time
We’ll slow it down while we can
I’m goin home to see him
While he still knows who I am
While he still knows who I am

If you like the message of the song, check out the Youtube video of Kenny Chesney singing it. The short film illustrates what most of us already know. It’s not the grand gestures that matter most. It’s warm hugs and cold ice cream, laughter and tears. May you enjoy a Father’s Day memory or moment of peace today. If you’re really feeling down, check out another favorite Kenny Chesney song, “I’m Alive”, because no matter how bad things may seem, it’s still a privilege to be here.


Depression and Dementia

My mom’s dementia diagnosis was confirmed years ago. She was plagued with anxiety and depression early on. In those days, I believed dementia was the chicken and depression was the egg. But a study now shows that depression may come first, prompting the development of dementia.

dementia and depression

It’s common for older people to experience some form of depression. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, the issues below can incite depression:

  • Traumatic or upsetting events — These can trigger high levels of anxiety that continue long after the event is over.
  • The effects of illnesses or side-effects of medication — Agitation may be caused by pain, hunger or infection, for example.
  • Lack of social support or social isolation — This may occur because the person can no longer get out much.
  • Bereavement — The loss of a spouse or close friend can change a person’s mental health over night.
  • Lack of meaningful things to do — This can cause feelings of boredom and apathy.
  • Feeling stressed or worried — Issues such as money, relationships, or fears about the future can incite stress.
  •  Past history of depression or anxiety
  • A genetic predisposition to depression or anxiety

It’s easy to see how early memory loss could be aggravated by these matters. But  new research from European scientists suggests that people with such signs of depression may be more likely to get dementia.

Pintoa, Oliveiraa, Ribeiroa, and Fonseca at the Psychiatric Clinic of Mental Health in Portugal reviewed evidence which suggests that depression is a risk factor that may precede dementia. Their findings indicate that depression and dementia produce similar changes in the brain. The authors believe that dementia and depression have shared risk factors or “a common pattern of neurological damage.” Root causes for both can include vascular disease, amyloid plaques, and inflammatory changes.

What does this mean for you and the people you love? If someone in your family has been diagnosed with depression, they may be at higher risk for developing dementia. That uncle who lives by himself, the aunt who never goes out, or the caregiver who won’t take a break — they may need help to see the link between their habits and their health.

It’s hard to change our behavior, even when we know something is wrong. But there are good cheap antidotes that can instantly improve our quality of life. Healthy choices include joining a support group, finding a hobby, or participating in musical activities like choirs and dancing. Basic exercise like walking can help a lot. Make a visit, offer a suggestion. The simplest gesture can often make a difference.