In dealing with dementia, family lives in the moment

Posted November 26, 2010

— For families dealing with the memory loss of a loved one, sometimes the best thing to do is live in the moment. 

Dave Simpson said that was a difficult adjustment to make with his mother, Lois Shoolbred, whom he calls Lo Lo.

Lo Lo has Alzheimer's disease. Simpson invited WRAL News to capture a rare glimpse inside his family’s struggle as the disease steals Lo Lo's memories and turns her into a different person. He is also chronicling his mother's Alzheimer's in a blog, "Life with Lo Lo."

While Lo Lo often recognizes Simpson and other family members, events from 10 years, 10 days or even two minutes ago can escape her.

Lo Lo's memories may take her to childhood, to her career as an entertainment producer for stars like Tony Bennett, then back to college. As Lois Simpson, she worked  as an on-air personality for WUSN-TV in Charleston, S.C., and later for a multimedia company in Washington, D.C.

"She can go from being in college and say, 'what are you studying,' said Heidi Keys, who works at Clare Bridge of Cary, an Alzheimer's and dementia care community for where Lo Lo lives.

"We just go along with that moment with her," Keys said.

Family follows Lo Lo's lead Family follows Lo Lo's lead

Her grown granddaughter, Maggie Simpson, said, "She doesn't know what's going on in my life. She thinks I'm 15 still sometimes, which is fine. That's who she is."

Keys and Gaye Baker, also of Clare Bridge, help Lo Lo's family understand the progress of Alzheimer's.

"It's painful. It's hurtful. It's confusing. It's embarrassing," Baker said.

Dave Simpson and his wife, Denise, say it took time to accept that they were reacting to the disease, not to the real Lo Lo.

"If you get agitated, she gets agitated," Dave Simpson said.

Rather than trying to correct her or trying to lead her down another path, family members now remember that sometimes it's just better to let her have fun.

"Everyday is a happy day for me, because I don't know the difference," Lo Lo says.


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  • See Chart Nov 26, 2010

    What Lo Lo is so fortunate with despite her disability is
    a loving family and a facility to help take care of her .

    This country is going to be in a big shock when the growing
    elderly population suffers the need for a lot more nursing care and assisted living homes.

    I for one am a senior taking care at home 24/7 my wife by
    myself who has Parkinson's disease ,we have no children what
    we "single" caregiver's dread is what happens to our loved one
    if something happens to us.
    In addition the cost of a nursing home where I live is more than twenty thousand dollars a month another shocking reality awaits our citizens by having to use these facilities if available for years on end and who when savings run out will pay for this care without a cure?

  • vetteman9956 Nov 26, 2010

    We have seen the worst of this disease. Just a little over a year ago my out of state father inlaw could not handle the effects of my mother inlaw's decline. His solution was to beat her to death after 47 years of marriage because she couldn't do what he wanted her to to his liking. He was found guily of Murder and at 74 is spending the rest of his life behind bars. We had tried many times to help him and get him the help he needed. He continued to reject any help and then complained that he didn't get any. His family as well as other medical professionals made referals to Adult Protective Svs. to try to get her out of the sitituation. The system let us down and less than 30 days before her death told us that they didn't have enough to remove her and it would take one more incident to be able to. That one more was when he killed her. Please help your loved ones including the care givers and if you suspect that something isn't right, get involved and don't give up.

  • PJ Nov 26, 2010

    I can relate to your situation very well. My mother also has AZ. She went down very fast and it was very hard. You are right to live in the moment with her. Love her, touch her, and hold her - you'll never regret it.