How I found a simple recipe for being happier and more grateful

My friend Jeanne, who is vegan sent me this and it changed my attitude…a lot! Making this simple dish changed me in profound ways…

Wrap veggie with hummus

*Tortilla (Food for Life brown rice or sprouted grain)

https://www.foodforlife.com/product/tortillas/ezekiel-49- taco-size- whole-grain- tortillas

*Oasis hummus

Nuke tortilla for 30 seconds to soften.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Layer on tortilla as follows:

Hummus – Essential

These are the ingredients that I use if I have them on hand. You may want to use others.

Frozen corn kernels. Stick these into hummus to anchor.

Chopped sweet onion, e.g. Vidalia or white. Or sliced scallions

Sweet red pepper chopped or julienne or roasted red pepper, sliced

Carrot chopped or julienne

Sliced kale (I prefer lacinato)

Sliced or chopped fresh tomato

Roll up filled tortilla as best you can – it may be quite full depending on the ingredients you use.

Bake 7 minutes until edges are brown and crispy.

Yumm!

So why did this recipe bring joy into my life?

I haven’t been able to prepare anything but scrambled eggs, and I relearned how to make a cheese omelet a few weeks ago. Now I can add this to my repertoire of easy meals I can make!

People take the little things in life for granted. How to prepare a meal for oneself is not something a person normally thinks about as something extraordinarily special. But for someone with Alzheimer’s who hasn’t done it in a very long time, it can be a very big deal. It was for me today, and it led to remembering a video that a brave woman named Laurie shared with me months ago.

My dear friend and dementia mentor, Laurie Scherrer, who I meet with on Zoom chat every Tuesday morning, wondered why I said I can’t prepare meals. Now I have to have to wonder too. Every day is different and today I was able to dust and clean my furniture in the living room, and make my bed and my husband’s bed (with a little assistance from him). I cleaned all the cabinets in my kitchen.

APATHY BE DAMNED!

The truth is that apathy is common among people with dementia. It is different from depression. Apathy is much more common among people with dementia than in older people without dementia. About 2–5% of older people without dementia have apathy at any one time, but about 50–70% of people with dementia have apathy. A person with any type of dementia can have apathy but it is particularly common in frontotemporal dementia. Apathy can start at any stage of dementia but often develops early on. Many studies suggest that apathy becomes more common as dementia progresses. Once present, apathy tends to persist rather than come and go.

One of the reasons that people with dementia are thought to develop apathy is damage to the brain’s frontal lobes. These control motivation, planning and sequencing of tasks.The first neurologist I saw suspected I had FTD, until the results of the Spect scan showed the pattern of Alzheimer’s. He said my frontal lobes are likely being affected, despite not showing up on the scan. When someone withdraws, stops doing things and loses their confidence and abilities, their apathy can get worse and so they become even less motivated.

It is important for anyone supporting the person with dementia to help them avoid apathy.

This is a video of a man that Laurie introduced me to months ago, that finally got through to me, and got me thinking about how I am seeing the cup as half empty.

When my cognitive remediation counselor was here observing me making an omelet, I was so bummed that the plate I needed for putting the omelet on was not there when it was ready in the pan. It was sitting on the surface at the other end of the island. To me, the fact that I didn’t remember to get the plate, represented a failure in my planning. The woe is me attitude struck. She pointed out that I only forgot one thing.

What I need to remind myself is to see the cup half full, rather than half empty. I have lost a lot of confidence because of the losses I’ve experienced. Although things are harder for me now, and there have been losses and sometimes I get scared when I turn into the wrong door when I’m headed to a different location, or I can’t remember the name of someone whose face is very familiar, or I find myself telling someone something, and completely forget my train of thought, I need to remember that I am still okay. Yes, I’ve lost a ton of confidence. But today I was reminded, that following the steps of a simple recipe can help me regain confidence by showing me what I am still able to do. For those of you who read this and have no problems with the simple activities of daily living- dressing yourself, making breakfast, this must read as pretty dismal. “Change the channel”, you think, or “I don’t want to read about this, as it has nothing to do with me”. But things happen to people! Some like Nick Vujicic are born without arms or legs.  I developed Alzheimer’s. It can happen to anyone.

But look at what a person with disabilities can do. Nick Vujicic does more than people who have arms and legs do. He inspires.

I have to keep working on my attitude.

I have had a pretty bad attitude and yesterday was an example of this. I had to go with my husband to the Social Security office to provide a signature for the final approval for my Social Security Disability Insurance payment for the Compassionate Allowance that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has added for early onset/younger-onsetAlzheimer’s, giving me expedited access to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). My sleep is often impaired, I sometimes don’t get to sleep until 3 or 4 am. (Sleep disorders happen in people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia’s. We often have nocturnally disturbed sleep, with an absence of a circadian sleep/wake cycle). I had had about 3 hours of sleep, and was bitchy and grumpy, forcing myself to get ready for an appointment that for me was too early in the day.

Rather than being happy SSDI had gone through, I was extremely sad. I looked around the Social Security office and saw people I’d seen in my community that I formerly considered the losers. That was when I was an active normal person, but now I saw myself sitting with them waiting for my number to be called. I felt so glum that my life had come to this point. I never associated with these people, and used to feel high and mighty compared to them. I would offer them money if I passed them in the street, but never imagined myself in similar financial circumstances. Now I was sitting with them at the social security office. Mine was a special appointment with a man in the back office, to sign the paperwork for SSDI disability due to early Alzheimer’s. I found out that I will be receiving a third of what I was making when I was well and employed as the chair of my department. I walked home with my husband, and passed a few people I knew for many many years, who did not acknowledge me. I suspect it’s because word is out about me having Alzheimer’s in my small city, where I’ve lived for 40 years, and that stigma is raising it’s ugly face. It saddens me that people think I don’t have feelings, and treat me differently, and that these folks rushed past me and didn’t say hello. My internal pity party was raging.

Yet, for today, I am glad that I made dinner for my husband and myself. My new friend who knows I have this disease, sent me this recipe, after she invited me for lunch, where she served this in exquisite china, in her beautiful home.

I am not alone. I was proactive and found a social network through Dementia Alliance International and I Zoom chat with others diagnosed with varying early stage dementias, every week.

I found my friend and dementia mentor in Laurie Scherrer, who I also Zoom chat and text with (special thanks to Gary LeBlanc who created Dementia Mentors to connect people with dementia and help motivate us in an online community).  I’m able to Zoom chat, write my blog, and communicate. There are those with this disease, I have been told, some who are in the early stages, some who are younger than me, who can’t use a computer, who can’t write or read any longer. That day may come for me, but it is not here yet. My life has changed and every day has it’s challenges. What I do need to be thankful for, when I fall deep into the abyss, which I have done often and fallen hard, again and again, is to be grateful for what I still can do and for the care and understanding that is present in my life now.

Laurie Scherrer is adamant about maintaining her independence, despite having early Alzheimer’s and Fronto Temperol dementia. She hasn’t lost the ability to do many things that have felt impossible for me. She has created accommodations for herself to make it possible to still lead as normal a life as she possibly can. She still drives a little, shops and cooks (although her husband puts the casseroles etc. in the oven for her as she has burned herself badly trying to cook). She has created systems for cleaning her lovely furniture, and for making beds, and dressing, and even knowing how to pack her suitcase for traveling so it is easier for her to get dressed. She and her husband still do quite a bit of traveling together because of the accommodations she has put in place for herself. She has confided in me that many of the startling losses I have experienced, have been challenges for her too. I had just assumed that because she can do these things, she isn’t as progressed as me. She might not be as progressed, but she has certainly experienced losses. It might be that I am progressing faster, or was diagnosed later in the process. But one thing I do know. She is my inspiration to tackle things that I am still be able to do, and she helps to keep me on track and believing that my will can be stronger than my woe.

https://dementiadaze.com/

What works for you? Tell me how anything here is relatable. It might be running or exercise, watching butterflies or drinking bullet proof coffee, or riding your motorcycle, or doing yoga and then sitting quietly in meditative pose. What is your routine and how do you keep yourself motivated?

Leave a comment.

5 thoughts on “How I found a simple recipe for being happier and more grateful

  1. Minna, what a wonderful blog you have done. I have been following Kate Swaffers blog and live in Auckland New Zealand and my Grandad has severe Alzhiermers-he is 87 and has had Alzhiermers for 7 years and is rapidly deteriating and we have no idea how long he has left. Its a cruel disease that robs the life of sufferes and there family. Currently, i’m writing a book about Grandad’s experience with his dementia and i have learnt soooo much from his experience and want to be an ambassador for Alzhiermers NZ because of my personal journey with it. You and Kate are both inspirational people and if your ever in NZ i would love to meet you-you are more than welcome to have my email address-samuelj.parr@gmail.com. Being active is so important and it helps your brain be active and hopefully slow down the disease. In order to slow down the progression of the disease my advice is-be active, keep learning, laugh(laughing is the best medicine they say for Alzhiermers so hopefully it works?)enjoy life, socialise and do lovely things. Sadly my Aunty and Uncle don’t speak to my Grandad now and take advantage of him-fortunately my immediate family treat him beautifully-we take him out once a week for lunch to give my Grandma a break-he is still at home but might go into care in the next months if he is still alive. You sound like a wonderful cook Minna, and cooking is an awesome way to keep active. Keep up the wonderful work!Best wishes Sam

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you’re following my blog Sam. I was many things that I am still trying to be able to.
      Does you’re grandpa still walk, talk and eat by himself? When you say severe dementia do you mean he is bedridden? Curious when the symptoms began in him and how this has played out.

      Like

  2. Nic Vuijic is a very special man Minna and a wonderful inspiration to us all-i studied Nic Vuijic at school this year and i thought what a wonderful man-thinking of you and sending lots of love, support and blessings during your battle💜

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    • Hi Minna, thanks so much for your reply and yes it is lovely to receive a reply from you-looking forward to further updates-Kate Swaffer seems lovely-can’t wait to meet her one day if i am in Adelaide or she is in Nz!What part of America are you from?If you ever come to NZ or if i’m in America i would love to meet you. My Grandfather can still walk but his walking is deteriorating rapidly and he always has to have a walking stick, and he can still talk and eat and he is not bedridden yet. He is 87 years old and he has had it for about 7 years but he was officially diagnosed 2 years ago. The story started about 6 years ago when there friends Pat and Gordon came to NZ on a holiday and they said he was very forgetful and was saying the same thing six times in 10 minutes!He was finding driving more of a challenge and he forgot where he parked his car and was talking to the supermarket ladies for half an hour! These were the early signs of his Dementia and sadly in the last three years he has deteriorated rapidly and is continually declining-the first 4 years his decline was very very slow but once he reached 84 it all went rapidly downhill from there. Take care, lots of love and blessings and keep in touch and hopefully we meet one day:)

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