As 2011 winds down, it is traditionally a time for looking back at the past year and looking forward to the new one. As I write this first essay in what will be a blog for caregivers I am sitting at a coffee shop in New York City. It’s been a short, pre-holiday that ends tonight when I fly back to my home town of Sacramento, California.

The holiday decorations are up, but the leaves in Central Park are still colorful, street vendors are roasting chestnuts, and a festive spirit is in the air. It strikes me that every day spent in this amazing city is full of sights, sounds and memories.

I think back on the last year and all the families and professionals I’ve met who are involved in Alzheimer’s disease care. The memories are vivid.

  • There was wife who told me that it took her a year, but she finally accepted her situation and realized that it was time to stop arguing with, and correcting, her husband with Alzheimer’s disease. “It’s time to be in the moment with him and enjoy each day.”

  • There was the young Alzheimer’s researcher whose enthusiasm and dedication gave me hope that we will find an answer to this devastating disease.

  • There was the man in his 50’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease who sat in the front row at one of my talks. He was very open about his situation and said he wanted to teach others that “there is still a person here.”

  • There was the adult daughter, who just wanted someone to talk to. I wasn’t able to solve her problems relating to an unsupportive family, but she embraced the idea of taking this time to work on her own relationship with Mom so that she could someday feel a sense of pride and accomplishment instead of disappointment and bitterness.

As I think back on the last year, there was also a trip made to Toronto, Canada for a meeting of Alzheimer’s societies around the world at the Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) conference. The Japan delegation was there, just weeks after that devastating earthquake and tsunami. I gave them a gift of California almonds and we embraced and talked about our hopes for better days ahead.

In these series of columns I look forward to meeting many of you, hearing about your situations, and answering as many questions as I can. My goal for the blog will be to merge evidence-based practices with my own point of view about how to bring out the best in persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. When the person with dementia is at their best, it makes our job as caregivers easier and more rewarding. It’s like a road trip—there are plenty of bumps in the road, but you can arrive at your destination feeling good about your journey.

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