Tricks to deal with dementia: Give them a clue – lie if necessary

July 29, 2008

If your family has not been touched by a member with Alzheimer’s Disease, senile dementia, or some other form of memory-killing disease, you’re in a lucky minority.

A good friend told how her brother-in-law eased the pain of her mother’s slide into dementia, with little lies. The mother developed an invisible friend who had to accompany her on most outings. The problem was that the invisible friend was also invisible to the mother. The brother-in-law, frustrated at the mother’s refusal leave her room for an outing because the friend was not apparent to accompany them, finally told the mother that the friend was already in the car. Mom happily scooted to the car and forgot about the friend completely by the time they got to the car.

The friend was “already there” for much of the rest of the mother’s life. It was a lie, a falsehood, but it made things so much easier.

CBS Evening News tonight featured a story on a potential new treatment for dementia. In one segment, a husband was quizzing his dementia-affected wife, and she could not recall what he had told her just a few minutes before, how many years they had been married. Frustrating for the victim as well as the family.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “CBS report on Alzheimers“, posted with vodpod

A British psychologist, Oliver James, has a new book out that suggests such quizzes do more damage, and are unnecessary. Help the victim along with cues, he says. It’s a trick he got from his own mother-in-law, Penny Garner, from her experience working with her mother.

In Dorothy’s case, Garner found that while she [Dorothy] had no idea what she had done moments before, she automatically tried to make sense of her situation by matching it to past experiences. Dorothy had always enjoyed travelling, and so if she was asked to sit with other people for any length of time, she assumed she was in the Heathrow departure lounge. By not challenging this assumption, Garner found that her mother would sit peacefully for long periods. If she did wander off, Garner found she could encourage her to return by reminding her of her former skill as a bridge-player, telling her that the other players were waiting for her. “Given a properly set up bridge table, my mother would spend hours happily looking at her cards and waiting to play,” she says.

People with dementia are often exhausting to care for because they forget what they are doing during routine activities. Garner found that she could enable her mother to remain relatively independent by providing cues. “If while getting ready for bed, I noticed she had lost track of whether she was buttoning up the cardigan ready to go out or taking it off to go to bed, I would fiddle with my buttons alongside her and say ‘Oh good! No more travelling for us today! Glad we’ve got a bed for the night!’ I found that this simple cue was all she needed. Without it, she was inclined to get half-way through undressing and then start getting dressed again.”

We all look for such cues in everyday life, and we use them to remind us of what we are doing, where we are going, and why. Why not make it easier for victims of dementia?

Who is president of the United States? Half the time I’d prefer to forget it’s George W. Bush. Don’t quiz me on it. Ask me if it isn’t great that we’re electing someone to replace him, this fall.

Smart human tricks.

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Happy conception, NASA! 50 years

July 29, 2008

Happy 50th birthday, NASA!

President Eisenhower signing the National Aeronautics and Space Act - U.S. Naval Photographic Center

President Eisenhower signing the National Aeronautics and Space Act – U.S. Naval Photographic Center

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was created by legislation signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 29, 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Act. The agency was formally inaugurated on October 1, 1958 — NASA dates its birth from that day.

But, what the heck! There’s enough cool history for two celebrations every year!

Teachers might take this opportunity to stock up on photos and information for bell-ringer quizzes and other presentations on October 1, 2008, when NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of NASA’s opening its doors, and school is actually in session.

Photos from NASA on the 47th birthday, in 2005

Photos from NASA on the 47th birthday, in 2005 Image Details:
First row, from left:
A 1931 photo shows the original hangar at NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The first American satellite in orbit, Explorer 1, launches in January 1958. The “Original Seven” Mercury astronauts were selected in 1959. The experimental Echo project used large metallic balloons to bounce signals from one point on Earth to another.Second row, from left:
The X-15 hypersonic research aircraft flew for nearly 10 years, from June 1959 to October 1968. Apollo 11 astronauts left the first bootprints on the moon in July 1969. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, seen from one of the twin Voyager spacecraft that launched in 1977. NASA satellites helped create the “blue marble,” a detailed image of Earth.

Third row, from left:
Columbia launches on the first shuttle mission in April 1981. Image of the Eagle Nebula from the Hubble Space Telescope. The Mars rover Opportunity looks back at its tracks on the red planet. The international space station is humanity’s first permanent orbital outpost.

Fourth row, from left:
The Cassini spacecraft has been sending back images of Saturn, it’s rings and moons since July 2004. Discovery returns the space shuttle fleet to flight in July 2005. NASA satellites help scientists and forecasters watch powerful hurricanes. Artist’s concept of NASA’s next spaceship, the crew exploration vehicle, docked with a lander in lunar orbit.

Photo credit: NASA

Congress created a civilian agency to honcho space exploration as part of the body of reform actions after the Soviet Union beat the U.S. with orbiting an artificial satellite, in 1957.

Google has another of its arty Google Logos in honor of the day:

NASA has its own logo for the 50th anniversary:

NASA’s 50th anniversary logo


Exciting times dept.: New inflation control – no paper to print money

July 29, 2008

This year is an exciting time to be teaching history, government or civics, or economics. So many events in national politics and in the world expose the workings of government, politics and history, that teachers should have smoking scissors by the time they finish the morning newspaper.

From Agence France Presse - A Zimbabwean $50 million note in April, not enough to buy a banana

Image from The Guardian/EPA - A Zimbabwean $50 million note in April, not enough to buy a banana; worth less than $0.01 US now

Zimbabwe’s unbelievable inflation rates are textbook cases for economics and government teachers, aren’t they? Inflation has been running more than 1 million percent for some time. Reports I saw a few days ago said inflation is now at something like 2 million percent — in a story about a new currency being printed there, the Zimbabwean $100 billion note.

Authorities last week released a new $100 billion bank note. By Sunday it was not enough even to buy a scarce loaf of bread in what has become one of the world’s most expensive — and impoverished — countries.

Is that a cruel enough example to get the attention of high school economics students?

But the story has gotten even more bizarre. Even with a government making absolutely no effort to control inflation, supply and demand can put a crunch on affairs.

Zimbabwe has run out of paper upon which to print the money to pay government workers.

So the elaborate work by the despotic Robert Mugabe to keep his hold on the reins of power, the carefully planned murders of opposition political workers, the threats of violence if the vote didn’t go his way — all of that may come crashing down. Mugabe can’t print money to pay the thugs to terrorize the people. The thugs may turn on Mugabe.

The government is reported to have run out of paper to print money and is believed to be panicking over how to pay salaries for civil servants, especially soldiers and police who are the backbone of the Mugabe dictatorship. From AllAfrica.com, a report from SW Radio Africa:

Giesecke & Devrient, the European company that was providing the paper, was last month pressured to cut supplies by the German government, after protests were threatened. In addition, a company that provides the software licences for the design and printing of the banknotes, is reported to be considering withdrawing their contract.

The military has helped run the country for some years now and the Mugabe regime needs to sustain military and police operations in order to maintain political control. There is much consensus among observers that Mugabe’s recent decision to sign the Memorandum of Agreement with the two MDC formations was clearly based on increased economic pressure. One English pound this week is trading at Z$1.3 trillion.

Earlier in the week, Mugabe was out of the country trying to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with his opposition, Morgan Tsvangarai. What power will be left to share?

The software for the notes, which is supplied by a Hungarian-Austrian company called Jura JSP, is reportedly very technical. The UK Guardian newspaper quoted a ‘knowledgeable source’ at the Zimbabwe government’s Fidelity Printers, who said the software issue was a major problem and had created an air of panic. “They are in a panic because without the software they can’t print anything,” the source added.

Helmoed-Romer Heitman, the South Africa correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly (a global military security publication) said the situation faced by the regime is quite typical of many African countries that are falling apart. He said the result tends to be at least violent demonstrations, if not a mutiny by the military.

“Given the current situation in Zimbabwe, I am inclined to think that a lot of the military, certainly middle ranking officers and some seniors, are not all that enamoured of the party that is running the show”, said Heitman.

Oh, and that 2 million percent inflation?

With experts estimating that the inflation rate is currently at 15 million per cent, and pressure on those doing business with the Mugabe regime increasing, the economy has proved to be the straw that finally broke the camel’s back.

Today comes word that the government plans to revalue Zimbabwean money, lopping a few zeroes off, to make it sound more rational.

Observations: First, these are great examples to use in classes, stark contrasts of inflation out of control. Second, Mugabe is riding a tiger, finally, after holding power for several decades. He should study the words of Winston Churchill. Churchill wrote, in While England Slept:

“Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.”

If you read this blog regularly, you may wonder with me, is there a malaria problem in Zimbabwe? If so, how will the wackoes blame all of this on Rachel Carson?

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Less than a month to a million

July 29, 2008

About midnight Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub got its 875,000th click.  We should make a million by September.

Maybe viewership would be higher if I retitled the blog, “I CAN HAS CHEESE HISTORY,” or if I changed the format to “Strange History.”

Eh, we’ll stick to the knitting we know.  Thanks to the many readers.


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