Healthy, Wealthy and Wise! Alzheimer’s Disease And My Care Journey!

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise!  Alzheimer’s Disease And My Care Journey! 

Who knew that an overnight flight to Germany to visit my son and his wife, would provide inspiration for September’s “Healthy, Wealthy and Wise” topic and help me revisit a time of great heartache, as well as tremendous growth in my life!

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise!  Alzheimer's Disease!

When the movie “Still Alice” came out last year to rave reviews from the movie critics, as well as many of our friends and neighbors, (Julianne Moore even won an Oscar for her role as the starring character) my husband and I agreed at the time that neither one of us wanted go see it since the wounds were still quite raw from watching both our mother’s decline in their mental capabilities during the later years of their lives.

An Airplane Reckoning!

It is amazing to me what being restricted to the dimly lit cocoon of an airplane with a long overnight flight ahead does to your sensibilities when you can’t seem to fall asleep–for me it ended up being a blessing!  After drinks and peanuts, I settled into my neck pillow with a good book, but after a while, I was still wide awake, so I scanned the movie list for free viewing by the airline.  Other than a few sci-fi thrillers and corny comedies, “Still Alice” a story about an elite college professor, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at a relatively young age, was the only title that seemed appealing.  So with my husband snoring softly beside me…I pushed play.

Alzheimer’s Disease!

In simple terms, Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder that gradually destroys the neurons leading to the brain, causing memory loss and cognitive decline.  My mother was diagnosed with a related malady called Parkinson’s disease related dementia, where the nerve pathways to the brain and the other major organs become frayed and all bodily functions are eventually profoundly compromised.

Healthy, Wealthy And Wise!  Alzheimer's Disease!

“In examining the disease, we gain wisdom about anatomy, physiology and biology.  In examining the person with the disease, we gain wisdom about life!”  Author of “Still Alice” Lisa Genova on Alzheimer’s disease

I think one of the main reasons I was so reluctant initially to see “Still Alice” was because I was afraid of the feelings that might resurface of a very painful time in my life.  By watching the movie, however, I was able to finally fully comprehend that the care I gave my mother, not only helped her maintain her dignity, I was also able to gain immeasurable insight into my own ability to do hard things, love unconditionally and find ways to cope when things aren’t going the way I want them to go!  When my mom first received her diagnosis, I became engrossed in researching the symptoms of her disease and any possible treatments available; it was crucial for her wellbeing to be knowledgeable and ask questions so that the doctors who cared for her would be sincere and forthright in addressing any concerns.  My parents spent a lot of time and money after my mom’s diagnosis to try and ensure the best possible outcome for her, but they knew that ultimately the disease was sure to progress.

My Care Journey!

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise!  Alzheimer's Disease!

 “My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, but I still live for each day.  I live in the moment…I have to!”  Lisa Genova, “Still Alice”

• Don’t define your loved one by their disease! 

One of the first lessons I was taught in nursing school was that no matter the diagnosis, everybody is deserving of being treated with great consideration and care.  It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the daily routine of looking after someone’s physical needs that you forget to really look into their eyes and see them for the lovely, gracious people they are!  No matter how much my mom’s condition continued to deteriorate, I tried to never lose sight of the fact that she was an amazing woman who had devoted so many years of her life to caring for our family!  By maintaining this perspective, I was able to get through some really tough times!

• Outline care plan goals as soon as possible! 

Once my parents had received recommendations from doctors involved in my mother’s care, we immediately sat down as a family to consider the long term goals to be made while my mom was still able to have a voice as to the direction her care should go.  My experience is that you should also include legal counsel in these planning sessions as well, that way you can safeguard against dissenting opinions from others later on down the road.  Doing this not only empowers the person with the disease, it helps to unify everyone else involved so that they can make a more concerted effort to honor the wishes of their loved one!

Helping your loved one maintain a sense of independence is key!

Loved ones given the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia seem to have the odds stacked against them in countless aspects of their lives, so being able to care for themselves as much as possible, even when many tasks take much longer to do, is key to their overall wellbeing and serves to thwart the effects of the illness almost as much as any medication that’s given.  I found that this was not a good time to try new hobbies, instead, keeping a good routine and doing familiar activities with my mom that she had enjoyed prior to her diagnosis, such as gardening and scrapbooking, helped her thrive the most, despite her illness!  Even when the time came that my mother could do only a few things for herself, she seemed to always take pride in doing those few things!

(Be sure to check for more helpful information on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.) 

I count my blessings that I was able to help care for my mother when the harsh symptoms of Parkinson’s disease ravaged both her mind and body!  Although, I caught glimpses of my sweet mom every now and then, most often, she was a shadow of her former self and we both had to adapt to a new normal every day.

“Courage is grace…under pressure.”  Ernest Hemingway

My mom once told me that it might seem more courageous if she had cancer “…it seems you can put your finger on that diagnosis…this disease is so elusive!”  My mother was the epitome of both courage and grace!

Have you cared for or are you currently caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia?  I’d love for you to share your thoughts. 


Patio Potluck Picnics!

Patio Potluck Picnics!

As we officially celebrate the end of summer this weekend, it’s hard to say so-long to all those things that make summer such a great time of year.  Luckily, the fall season still provides great weather to linger outside with family and friends so we can enjoy a few more patio potluck picnics!

Patio Potluck Picnics!

 “Anyone who has taken a place at a picnic table, has a checkered past!”  John Kintz

I’m not exactly sure what it is about gathering around a picnic table…..the food seems to taste better, the conversation and laughter flows a little easier, maybe that’s why my husband and I love eating outdoors on fun, quaint patios every chance we get!

Patio Picnics at Taggarts Grill!

One favorite outdoor patio that my husband and I love is at Taggart’s Grill in Morgan, Utah!  It’s a gorgeous escape from the “real” world where delicious, down-home food is served!

Extending Summertime!

If you were to ask my husband what one of his favorite summer activities is, I’m sure he would respond with great exuberance that gathering together with loved ones for a big barbecue on our patio is definitely a top contender!  Since we love to extend this fun past time well into the fall season, I thought I’d share a few of the tasty and easy dishes we like to serve at some of our patio potluck picnics!

  • The Ultimate Food Truck Hot Dog:

World's Best Hot Dog!

Obviously, the natural “go-to”  when planning a picnic is barbecuing hot dogs and hamburgers.  Last summer at a local arts festival, my hubby discovered the infamous “World Dog Food Truck” and hot dogs took on a whole new meaning for us!  After trying this amazing recipe, you’ll have a hard time going back to just ketchup and mustard on your hot dog!  Get the recipe here

  • Grilled Steak Salad:

Grilled Steak Salad

I think we would all agree that there’s nothing quite as good as a sizzling steak fresh off the grill…but if you want to put the last of the vegetables from your garden to good use, then our version of Red Rock’s Steak Salad would be the perfect patio picnic meal!  The recipe for one of our favorite salads can be found here.  

  • Mini Pizzas:

Homemade pizza!

Everyone’s universal love of pizza can be adapted to small individual sizes that they make themselves!  This is one of my granddaughter’s beloved patio picnic meals!  We’ll set out a smorgasbord of various toppings such as ham, pineapple, pepperoni, mushrooms, etc. including extra olives, of course!  Then, when your guests have finished adding what they want on their pizza, we bake them on large pizza stones inside a heated grill.  Served with a variety of potluck salads, fresh veggie trays and fruit–believe me, patio dining doesn’t get much better!  Check out other fun ideas for patio meals with kids in mind on this post that featured our Outdoor Campout Extravaganza!   

  • Dutch Oven Goodness

Dutch Oven BBQ Spare Ribs!

For those of you unfamiliar with what a dutch oven is, it is a cast iron pot with three legs and a slightly concave, rimmed lid where coals (briquettes) from a cooking fire can be placed on top as well as below the dutch oven to help create uniform heat, so that the inside of the pot acts like an oven.  My husband and I both have many great memories of outdoor dutch oven dinners with family and friends when we were growing up.  Now when we get together for a potluck picnic with relatives, a popular recipe is our Dutch Oven BBQ Spare Ribs!  You can find that recipe here.


Another yummy dutch oven recipe that has quickly become one of our favorites is this Gooey Double Chocolate Cake!  Since my husband was put in charge of helping cook the meals for Girl’s Camp this year, he decided to let all the girls attending hone their cooking skills a bit at a back yard picnic a few weeks prior to camp.  To say that this recipe was the hit of the night would indeed be a huge understatement!  As the girls devoured every morsel of this rich, moist cake, they were especially excited to think that they’d helped make it!  ( In fact, they ate it up so fast I didn’t get any pictures of the cake after we dished it up!)    

 Gooey Double Chocolate Dutch Oven Cake      

This recipe is for a 14 inch Dutch Oven or larger.  Before mixing up the cake recipe, fire up the coals so they can be getting hot.

Make one German Chocolate cake mix according to directions on the box, then put it in a greased or foil lined dutch oven.  Do the same thing using a Dark Chocolate Devil’s Food cake mix.  Pour that cake mix on top of the other one and marble the two cake mixes together by stirring briefly in a random zig-zag fashion with the tip of a knife.

Take one regular sized bottle of chocolate ice cream topping and drop small dollops all around the outside rim of dutch oven and several in the middle.  (Do not stir the sauce or it will just sink to the middle of the cake when it’s cooking.)

For a 14 inch Dutch Oven, arrange 13 hot briquette coals on top and 15 coals underneath.  Bake cake for about an hour.  (You will need a heat-resistant surface or fire pit to cook cake.)  Top it with ice cream and more chocolate sauce!

This is serious decadence…but so worth the splurge!

Let The Seasons Collide!

This time of year is when summer and fall actually collide a little and we get the best of both season…..we can still wear flip-flops, but we may throw on a warm sweater during the chilly evenings.  We’re enjoying the last of the fresh, garden vegetables, but serve maybe we’ll them with savory soups and some warm, spicy breads as our taste buds start to crave our favorite fall foods.

Patio Potluck Picnics!

This is the time of year that my family really enjoys a bowl of warm chili topped off with a few assorted cherry tomatoes from our garden.  I shared our Best Chili Recipe in this post.

I think the best thing about patio potluck picnics, besides the food, of course, is the neat stories that are shared about all the fun times we had during the past summer months!

What are some of your favorite picnic foods?  How do you celebrate Labor Day?

I hope everyone enjoys a great beginning to the fall season that includes a patio potluck picnic or two!



Healthy, Wealthy And Wise! Immunization Guidelines!

Healthy, Wealthy And Wise!  Immunization Guidelines!

August seems to have gone by with warp speed–and now we’re all busy doing those things that come with summer coming to an end, school starting and life settling into a little more of a scheduled routine.

I thought I’d devote this month’s “Healthy, Wealthy And Wise” journal entry to the important topic of vaccines and immunizations since many parents are now preparing to send their children back to school.  When we are proactive about our personal health, not only does it help aid in the prevention of unnecessary illnesses, it can also help us save money that might otherwise have to be spent on medical costs when seeking treatment when we are sick.  I also think it goes without saying, that acquiring any sort of knowledge that will ultimately help us have a better quality of life is indeed wise!

Healthy, Wealthy And Wise!  Immunization Guidelines!

With the resurgence of many previously eradicated diseases, such as whooping cough and measles, the National Center of Disease Control has recently issued a warning that authorizes many schools, including colleges, the right to withhold entrance to those who are not current with required vaccinations.

(You can read more on the subject of immunizations here.)

The Immunization Debate Is Real!

The United States public health officials and many in the medical field have had to combat many misconceptions about vaccine safety for a number of years now.  Despite the fact that countless studies have found no reliable evidence to support the notion that vaccines can cause autism or other chronic illnesses, a growing number of parents still refuse to vaccinate their children.  The fear that vaccines would increase the risk of childhood autism first gained public leverage in 1997 when an article was published by Andrew Wakefield, a British surgeon, linking the two together.  But according to the CDC, this paper has since been completely discredited due to serious procedural errors and undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.  The paper has since been retracted from all medical publications and Dr. Wakefield lost his license.  Still, the many years of research it took to create viable vaccines lost critical ground in a matter of mere months by the unethical practices of the scientific personnel associated with this now debunked study.

So let’s remind ourselves about the basic, fundamental elements of immunizations:


  • What is a vaccine?  A vaccine is substance prepared from dead or living organisms that is introduced into the body via an inoculation that causes the development of antibodies, which will then produce immunity to the disease caused by the microorganism. 
  • Why is it important to be immunized?  An immunized person develops antibodies in response to the pathogens introduced when they are vaccinated; these antibodies stay in the bloodstream for years, even a lifetime, which allows the body to quickly react and protect itself against the disease when he or she comes in contact with the disease in the future.   

Pediatric Physician’s Viewpoints!

In my role as a maternity and nursery nurse, I’m often able to help provide the first line of defense for babies in the fight against contractible diseases, since parents have the opportunity to give consent for their newborns to receive the Hepatitis B vaccine within 24 hours after birth.  When parents decide to defer this vaccine, I see many knowledgeable pediatricians try to better Ed ucate them on the value of keeping their children up to date on life saving vaccinations.

Immunzation Guidelines.

If I were to summarize the viewpoint on immunizations of the pediatricians I have the privilege of working with, it would be that they recognize that parents want to do what is right for their children.  Doctors are also aware that many families today don’t fully recognize that measles, mumps and whooping cough, just to name a few, are not the quaint, old diseases of the 19th century.  Most pediatricians find it a daunting task sometimes, to defend years of science and research against popular public opinion and current trends; emotions always outweigh statistics.  Simply stated, doctors find that the best way to deal with parental concerns is by appealing to these emotions and taking the approach that Dr. Ari Brown talks about in her popular book, Baby 411.

I tell parents, “I vaccinate myself and my family to protect them, I wouldn’t do anything different with yours.”  Nothing works 100% of the time, but I can honestly say that this approach works more effectively than anything else I say, and it takes less two minutes.  

Current Immunization Schedule:

As mentioned earlier, our children are not the only ones who need to receive immunizations, there are vaccines that we as adults need as well, such as H1N1, (better known as the flu shot) tetanus, meningococcal, etc.  You’ll find an easy to understand immunization schedule here, that way you can help your family stay current on their vaccines.

Hopefully, you’re inspired to do more research on immunization guidelines and the need to be proactive where our own health is concerned, as well as that of other family members.  Should anyone you know experience a negative side effect from immunizations, consult your physician and seek treatment, as well as other viable vaccine alternatives.   (My oldest granddaughter had a severe reaction to her first influenza inoculation and had to be hospitalized; she won’t be able to have another flu shot until they can make one without an egg based mixture, so obviously my daughter is careful to go the extra mile to keep her safe and well during the cold and flu season.) 

I’d like to end with a profound quote by Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious disease and vaccine expert, and director of the “Vaccine Education Center” at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia:

“I would make the case that a choice not to get vaccines is not a risk-free choice.  Rather, it’s a choice to take a different and far more serious risk.”

I would love to know your experiences with keeping your family up to date on their immunizations.  Were you aware that there were recommended vaccines for adults too?