Last week Jolene Brackey was in town giving presentations revolving around her book, Creating Moments of Joy. Brackey switched careers from interior designer to interior life enhancer, so to speak. She found her calling as an activities director for Alzheimer patients and now as a speaker, consultant, and trainer to dementia caregivers. Her book is the result of years of learning what works to assist dementia patients in daily living and how to bring connections and joy to them.
Brackey gave a two-hour animated talk to a room full of relatives and friends of dementia patients. The audience ranged from those brand new to dementia and frightened to those like me who had years of learning the hard way. Oh, I wished I had Brackey’s book five years ago. She writes as an expert and friend, with short, easy to understand chapters full of examples—a style so important for those whose brains are stunned and confused by what dementia can bring (I’m talking about us caregivers!). Getting help like this can bring tears of relief.
On the bright side, Brackey was a whirling dynamo of advice, information, and anecdotes, who brought laughter and hope to her audience. One tidbit: “Stop correcting because you’ll make everyone’s life hell…If it’s not causing physical pain, leave it alone.” I think this works with teenagers, too.
Old hand that I am in Alzheimer’s care, I learned an exciting new way to bring joy to my mother. Brackey has a number of videos filled with gentle music and lovely scenes of nature or of families and children having fun that she said would soothe dementia patients as well as help them remember the beauty and happiness of life. Just talking and telling stories can be overwhelming or confusing to those deeper into dementia, but visions of life and familiar sounds can bring comfort and cheer.
Brackey told of the importance of sensory images in bringing back memories—sights of families enjoying picnics, sounds of running streams or birds or laughter, the taste of homemade chocolate chip cookies or lemon drops, the smell of cinnamon or their favorite perfume, the touch of fabric or a flower or a fishing bobber. In her book, she talks about simple pleasures, not family gatherings or lots of presents or busy outings, but things like pretty rocks, one flower, holding hands, a shoulder massage.
My mother can’t see well anymore, so family photos are useless. Using Brackey’s video idea, I’m going to make a video with the free Windows Movie Maker program on my pc (Macs have a version, too) of scanned still shots of old family photos. She’ll be able to see her sisters, 1950s Japan, her daughters as young children, her faraway daughter now, her unknown grown grandchildren as the babies she remembers. I’m really excited!
Jolene Brackey signed my copy of her book with this inscription: “Linda, write down who they are – bring joy.” I didn’t tell Jolene that I already did write it down. That now I am the keeper of my mother’s stories, and she still likes to hear them.