By Lisa Skinner
I wrote the book, Not All Who Wander Need Be Lost, Stories of Hope for Families Facing Alzheimer’s and Dementia for those who are coping with loved ones afflicted with a dementia-related illness, and crumbling with the anguish of helplessly standing by, watching your loved one decline, and not knowing how to make it better for all who are affected.
I have been in your shoes so many times. As a matter of fact, I have personally watched 7 of my family members go through all the stages of a dementia-related illness through the end of their life. The irony of my story is that in addition to having 7 family members afflicted with dementia, my 17 1/2 year -old cockapoo, Oliver, has also been diagnosed with doggie dementia! I believe this is my calling, and why I want to help you through your turbulent journey.
My name is Lisa Skinner. I am a behavior specialist dedicated to helping families understand the stages and related behaviors that are associated with dementia-related illnesses.
My first experience with dementia was when I was a teenager and my beloved grandma began displaying some pretty bizarre behaviors. Her doctor diagnosed her with what was referred to back in the 70’s as senile dementia. She displayed a gamut of behaviors including paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions, all of which are symptomatic of dementia; however, not all people who suffer from dementia display all these behaviors. Everyone is different. Everyone displays different symptoms, and the cause of the dementia can be a result of over 50 different illnesses or conditions. Alzheimer’s disease is the number one cause of dementia, but there are many other causes, as I will discuss.
My grandmother believed there were birds nesting in her mattress; rats running along the walls; people breaking into her home and stealing things, as well as men trying to kill her. She would call the police everyday and report one or more of these occurrences. Finally, one day, they got a hold of my mother and told her to do something with her, as she was a nutcase! I was so outraged! My grandma wasn’t a nut, she had an illness! Didn’t they get that? Apparently not, and neither did most other people, including the doctors. Not much was understood about dementia then. We were at a loss for help and understanding of what was happening to my grandma, and how to manage her unpredictable day to day behaviors.
Let’s fast forward 40 years now. I have worked in the senior living industry since 1996, and have helped thousands of families understand how to communicate with their loved one who has dementia. I have set up programming in dementia-care homes, as well as trained staff on how to care for those with dementia. I also hold an administrator’s certification through the Department of Social Services with the State of California. While working on a master’s degree in Psychology, I made the decision to specialize in dementia-related illnesses and teach families how they can have a better-quality relationship with their loved ones through education. Working in the aging care industry, I became aware that there were still very limited resources on this subject; although there was a dire need for families to comprehend it.
The greatest obstacle for family members, caregivers, and the ones afflicted with dementia is how to communicate effectively with one another. It’s a learning process, but one that can be extremely effective and bring joy to the lives of all.
Please join me as I share the stories of real people and real situations of those who have endured the difficult journey through dementia. My goal is that you will be able to relate them to your own situations and benefit from the experiences of others. Many of my readers have told me that they wished they had this information when their loved one had dementia, but that the information has given them closure now that they have a better understanding of what was happening to their loved one, and how all the behaviors that they witnessed finally make sense.