My mother-in-law has had Alzheimer’s for ten years now. As most of you know, Alzheimer’s Disease steals the memories of it’s victim…especially the most recent ones. I have not always been one to feel like every part of recent memory loss is the most horrible thing that could happen. The main reason I feel this way, is that people who don’t remember that a loved one has died, never have to mourn their loss…unless people remind them. My mother-in-law talks about her husband, my father-in-law, Walter Schulenberg, now in Heaven for almost a year, in the same way as she does her daughter, my sister-in-law, Marlyce, and her parents, Robert and Nettie Knox, who have all been gone now since the 1980’s. To her, they are all still here, and she will see them later in the day. I can’t think of a better way to feel.
For her, it isn’t the middle of life memories that are missing, but rather, the recent memories, and the very distant past that elude her to a degree. For me, those are the ones that make me a bit sad. She doesn’t remember new family members, from marriages, or births of new great grandchildren. You can tell her who they are, and within five minutes, you have to tell her again. It isn’t an annoying thing, but rather a bit sad. As to her distant memories, she never really was one to relive her past a lot, so it is not unthinkable that she might not really remember those, but as a writer of moments past, that feels like a real loss to me.
Recently, while watching a television show, I got an idea. One of the characters had Alzheimer’s Disease, and couldn’t remember all the people he had helped in his career, until the other characters put together a DVD of all the people that the Alzheimer’s victim couldn’t remember. I started thinking about what a great idea that was. Maybe there was a way to give some of the forgotten memories back to my mother-in-law. The only problem I could see was that she would never be able to run a DVD player, and the staff was too busy to plug a DVD in for her all the time. It’s just too easy to forget, and then she never gets to see it.
Then it hit me. There is a way to get a great collection of pictures together, that she will be able to see every day, and no one will have to plug it in or turn it on for her. I started looking online for what I needed, and I found the perfect item. It was a 19 inch digital picture frame that has a built in timer to turn it on and off. I was so excited. We, the family bought the frame, and I have been loading pictures onto it. It now has about 2,000 pictures from different parts of her life, for her to look at when she is in her room at the nursing home. And there is still room for more. And no one has to run it. It has a timer, so it will run from 7:00 in the morning to 9:00 in the evening. Whenever she is in her room, it will be running, until bedtime.
Bob and I took the frame out to her on Saturday, and set it up. She really liked it. I was so excited about that. As I told her about some of the pictures, she looked on with great interest. Then came the moment when she knew the person in the picture, and finally the moment when she told me the name of one of her childhood horses…Star!! I was soooo excited!! I know that as she watches the frame, she will remember things about her past, at least for a little while. The digital picture frame has become the talk of the nursing home. All the nurses and aids rave about what a good idea it was. I’m just so happy that we are giving her memories back to her.