Lifebook

When my grandmother went to a carehome my dad got asked to make a lifebook for her. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s’ and the book would be a great way for staff to get to know her a bit better. And for her to look back on her life.

I’m writing this blog post in hopes to help people who are looking into making such a book for their relative.

What would be included in a lifebook?

  • Full name and preferred name (if needed)
  • Date of birth and place of birth
  • Photos and names (and birth dates/death dates) of other family members
  • Family tree
  • Photos of schooldays (if possible)
  • Photos and name (again with dates) of the spouse and children from the marriage
  • Places and houses the person has lived in (photos, maps)
  • Photos and names of much-loved pets
  • anecdotes about their life
  • Occupation of the person
  • Photos and names of friends
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Birth certificate can be included too
  • Favourite music
  • Letters

Why is all this important?

The full name and preferred would be already in the files of the nursing home where your relative is staying. But sometimes your relative will only listen to a pet name from their childhood. Many times that name is not recorded in the files. Make sure you included that name.

Date of birth and place of birth should, again, be in the files. But sometimes it’s hard to find out the exact place of birth. Maybe the village doesn’t exist anymore. Or maybe the records don’t show the right place of birth (it happens).

Photos and names of other family members are important. A person with Alzheimer’s travels back in time. They’ll start asking about people who have long since died. It’s nice to have photos and names at hand. A family tree will come handy for carers, as they can see how people relate to your relative.

Schooldays are a really important part of a person’s life. Teachers have probably had a great impact on a person’s life. Photos will bring your relative back to those days.

One of the most important days of your life. That’s how almost everyone describes their wedding day. Almost anyone has at least one picture of their wedding day. Makes sure not only to include pictures from the spouse (if not alive anymore) later on in life. They won’t recognize them anymore. Harsh but true. But they’ll know that boy in the soldier uniform or the lovely girl in the long dress is the person they are going to get married to. These picture are very important.
As for the children. If you are visiting and you tell your mother/father you are his/her daughter or son, it might happen that they don’t remember you. This will hurt, a lot. Talk to the carers about it. You’ll find they are talking about you when you’re not around. They see you as the little boy/girl you once were. the grown person who stands in front of them doesn’t look familiar. Although they won’t mind a cuddle, as they somehow know you are close to them. How they know? They have no idea, but they feel love if you’re around.

Include photos of much-loved houses your relative has lived in. Have they moved like a 100 times in their life? What would they choose as the most important place they lived in. Think the house they bought when they first got married, the house the children were born in. The house the last lived in.

Pets are a very important part of life. Don’t think about the guard dog that wasn’t allowed in the house, think of the cat whose kittens were born in front of the stove in the kitchen. Think of the lamb that had to be bottle fed every few hours. Those are the important ones.

anecdotes, things your relative might suddenly start talking about. My grandmother suddenly started talking about a family where she had worked when she was about 14. Nobody remembered anything about that family, only her youngest sister did. She shed some light on my grandmother’s  behaviour when she talked about this family. This family had a massive (negative) influence on her. She hadn’t talked about them for over 70 years, but she remembered.

I think you’ve now got a pretty good picture of the important things that might help your relative to remember. And help the carers to care for your relative even more.

I can’t do this alone. Who can help me?

Ask help from friends and family. As I stated above, asking your aunts and uncles is a great way to find anecdotes from their childhood. Things they might have never talked about. Ask the nursing home if other families have made lifebooks. Ask them if you can view those for ideas. Nowadays you can make great photo books online. Use those services to your advantage.

Maybe there are volunteers in your local area who can help you. Or maybe there are organisations that can help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A lifebook isn’t something easy to make. It’s hard.

If you think you’re done, ask someone to go over your work. Ask them for input. It’s easy to include too much information. Maybe you’ve included stories that are important to you, but aren’t so much to your relative.

Is it really worth it to include negative parts of my relative’s life?

Yes, it is! Negative events are just as important as positive events. Let me tell you a short story.

In a nursing home where I worked was a woman who had severe dementia. The last few weeks of her life, when she was in bed, she was screaming and crying. The only thing we could understand were the words: “Don’t take him, don’t take him.” We had no idea what triggered this. And the only way to get her quiet was to give her a babydoll. When she didn’t have the babydoll in bed with her she would try to get out. We found her on the floor, on her hands and knees more than once, trying to get her babydoll.
We asked her daughters, she had 3 girls,  what she might be talking about. They had no idea and didn’t ask other family members for clues, despite us asking them to do so.
After the woman died, her brother dropped a bombshell on her daughters. It turned out that she had gotten pregnant when she was just 15 and had a baby boy in a home. That boy had been taken away from her right after birth. She had never spoken of this. Right until she died. When one of her daughters told us this news, we could finally understand her erratic behaviour towards the babydoll, who was, coincidentally, dressed in a blue jumper.

If the daughters had asked their uncle if he could shed some light on the womans behaviour this story would have reached us much sooner and we could have made sure she had that babydoll with her at all times. We might have been able to give it a name with her, making her feel more comfortable with this sad story. Sadly they didn’t and we tried to get that doll away from her on multiple occasions, for example when we needed to wash her or give her food. Which made her even more upset without us knowing.

So yes, negative details of someone life are important. Of course you don’t want the whole book to become negative, so don’t include too much.

I really hope this will help you make that lifebook for your relative. If you have tips, don’t be afraid to share them in the comments. I’d love to get as much feedback and tips as possible!

This post has been inspired by yesterdays Daily Prompt.

Never ever be the smart one in class…

Reading through so many posts regarding yesterday’s Daily Prompt, reminded me of a less enjoyable experience with one of my teachers.

Mr. H. was my Dutch teacher. He was a giant, with white hair and a comb-over. My mother remembered him from her schooldays. He wasn’t a pleasant man. He had a very high-pitched voice. He had trouble keeping order in his classroom.
On many occasion he caught me reading a book in his class. He did not like that. He wanted us to read, he did, just not when he was teaching us. I didn’t like his lessons, they were too easy for me. So I never paid attention. He tried to let me fail, but I always managed to get good grades.

One time he told us to write a cover letter. Remember, this was in the days that computers weren’t in every household, yet we had a computer. And a printer! A novelty in the early 90s.
I told my dad about this assignment. He worked in a local employment center. He told me to type the letter and print it out. It would show the (fictional) boss that I was capable of using a computer. It made sense to me, so I did.
The next week I brought my letter, complete with typed envelope into class. the whole class left their letters on Mr. H.’s desk. He picked mine out without any problems.

“Ms. M” he said, after opening the letter. “What is this?”
“It’s my cover letter, sir.” I replied, fully knowing something was awfully wrong.
“And why is it typed? Didn’t you understand me when I said to write the letter?” He looked at me with his very blue eyes, making me wish the earth would tear open and swallow me.
“Well, my dad said companies nowadays want typed letters so they know future employees are able to use a computer.” I said, feeling my cheeks getting red.
“Who would know better? Your dad or I, the Dutch teacher?” Mr. H. was practically shouting.
“My dad, sir. He works for the employment center.” I replied, glad to have actually thought up a smart answer…

Boy oh boy… A second later I wished I would never have thought up that answer. Mr. H. practically kicked me out of his class. My classmates were cheering, I had no idea how quick I had to get out. Mr. H. was fuming, his comb-over hanging down on his shoulder.
“Get out! And stay out! You don’t have to come in the next week! And you know what that means! Get your ass to the principal! Right now!”

Oh dear… The principal was a lovely man, who knew me as a diligent student. One who never set a foot wrong. Now I had to tell him what happened.
I went to the principal’s office and knocked on the door.
“Come in.” Mr. J. called.
I stepped in, by now feeling awful.
“Frouk, what are you doing here?” Mr. J. was surprised to see me. “I thought you were in Dutch class.”
“I was. I got kicked out.”
The shock on Mr. J.’s face wasn’t to be missed.
“Sit down and tell me what happened.”
So I sat down and told him everything, including what my dad had said and the reply that got me kicked out of class. I knew it would mean I had to stay late after school, probably even cleaning the toilets.
“So.” Mr. J. paused for a moment. I thought I saw a smile lingering on his lips… That couldn’t be, right?! “That was an awfully smart comment you gave Mr. H.”
“I know.” I said.
“How many classes are you now going to miss?” Mr. J. asked.
“3 sir. The last class tomorrow and thursday and the first class on friday.”
“So I guess you’re having a great week then. getting home early and starting later.” Mr. J told me. “Go to your next class. And don’t tell anyone you don’t have to stay late. I know you’ll be fine even if you miss those classes. And I also know that you didn’t say it to annoy Mr. H.”

I was dumb founded. I got out of Mr. J.’s office as soon as I could, only to bump into Mrs. K. who looked very surprised to see me coming out of the principal’s office. She pulled me into another, empty, office and asked me what happened. I told her the whole story. She almost wet herself laughing.

I never talked about this again with Mr. H. But somehow I felt a spark of respect in his behaviour towards me after the incident. Years later I bumped into him in town and we talked for a bit. He asked me if I remembered the incident and I told him I did, vividly. He told me he had great respect for my answer but couldn’t say so in front of the class. He told me that, after the incident, he had seen me in a different light and that he talked to the principal after that. The principal told him that his reaction had been too harsh and that I had been right in my statement about typed letters.

I admire him for bringing it up years later and telling me he was wrong back then. He’s never been my favourite teacher, but I have always respected him since.

Teacher’s Pet

The sound of the phrase “the teacher’s pet” is unnerving. For me it’s associated with being the outsider in the classroom, the one that’s bullied. I really don’t like the feelings that come up when I hear that phrase.
But it also means a teacher that has had a huge impact on someone’s life.

When I read today’s Daily Prompt; Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse. How is your life different today because of him or her? I can only think of one person. Mrs. K.

Mrs. K. was my english teacher in high school. She has had a lasting impact on my life. She’s the one that got me interested in english, she’s the one that single-handedly kept me from going insane at school.
I was the one that got bullied. A lot. I was the outsider. Mrs. K. knew that. She also noticed that I was interested in anything and everything. She fueled my interests. By simply asking me about things, giving me stuff to do when I was bored. She helped me out when I had problems. I could always talk to her. She helped me a lot.

I can’t help but think without her my life would be much less colourful than it is now. I would never have learned so much english if it wasn’t for her. I would never have gotten to watch Time Team, through which I learned even more. So, in hindsight, she made me tweet in English and made me set up my blog in English. If it weren’t for her I wouldn’t be posting this right now.

When I finished school I kept in touch. I saw her regularly, even babysat her son. The son that was born while I was in her class, I even visited her in hospital. Nowadays I don t see her as much. I know life hasn’t been kind on her. Her husband is very ill. I feel so sorry for her. She helped me through a rough time after school, when my uncle died. I remember her and a friend of my mom helping my up when I collapsed after the funeral. I remember crying like a child on her shoulder.

Mrs. K. thank you so much for all you’ve done for me. Thank you for being there when I needed you. Thank you for making me feel good about myself when others completely trashed me. Thank you for everything you learned me. You are my hero!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

When I think of a surprise the first thing that pops into my mind is one morning in March 2005. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I opened the curtains that morning…

The weather forecast didn’t say there was snow coming. So when I closed the curtains the night before I didn’t think they world would’ve changed so much the next morning.
I woke up around 7 AM. It was awfully quiet outside and the light was a bit diffuse. Like it always is when there’s been a nice layer of fresh snow…
I slipped out of bed and went to the livingroom. I peaked through the curtains and looked out. It was snowing quite bad. I closed the curtains again and then realised I had seen something odd. I peaked again. My eyes registered what I mind just couldn’t cope with. Our garden had disappeared. Completely!

Everything was covered in a lot of snow. I ran to the bedroom and told Jay to come and look. He looked out and couldn’t believe it either. We grabbed a tape measure and went outside, in our PJ’s. The outcome of the measuring was astonishing. 52 Cm of snow…

I turned on the radio and listened to the local news. Schools closed, roads closed, people who couldn’t get to work as their car was snowed in. People calling in with the own measurements. 25, 30, 40, even 70 Cm of snow. All over the province.
Later, the local weatherman called in to explain. The previous night a band of clouds crept up from the east and covered our province entirely. And instead of moving along it decided it liked where it was and stayed there. Releasing it’s snow steadily. Slowly but surely the ground got covered in snow, more and more snow.

So when the world woke up the following day, it woke up to a world filled with snow. A world where, suddenly, everyone greeted each other, talked to each other. Even though they had never met before. I wish the world could always be covered in snow.

For more entries for this weeks’ photo challenge, click here.

 

Hiring a removal company or not?

Last night I got linked to a lovely blog where I found this post. The author, Helen is talking about moving (she is about to move) and has hired a removal company. I replied to that post, as hiring a removal company is the BEST idea ever! Really, it is.

When we moved last year we decided to hire a removal company. We did the 3 moves before that with help of family and friends and it took ages. The last move took us 3 solid days. One to move the big pieces of furniture and two to pack, unpack and move all the boxes. We couldn’t afford to buy many boxes, so instead we packed and unpacked and then packed them again… Very tiring.

So this time we decided to do it differently. We looked into renting a small truck, but that was expensive to say the least. Not to mention there’s only one person we know with a license to drive a (small) truck and that is my dad. So if we did this, we would have to wait til he had time to help us. Don’t worry, he’d love to help, but he barely had time to do his own hobbies.
We asked 3 companies to come around and give us quotes for the move only. Packing and unpacking I wanted to do myself. The first was twice the price I hoped it would cost. I was shocked to say the least. The second was a little cheaper, but only because I said it was too much. The third was the cheapest, but still more than I hoped it would cost. Then a friend of ours told us about a different company and said they were good. So I asked them around. The quote they gave me was less than I thought to begin with, so I booked them there and then.

We had thought we would get the keys of our new house (not really new, but new for us) in October, but as it turned out, we got them in September. So I called the removal company and asked them if it was at all possible to push the date forward by 4 weeks. No problem at all.
They brought the boxes (all 60 of them…) the following day and we started packing like mad. Meanwhile we were busy in our new house, packing boxes in our old and both working. Hectic time to say the least.

boxes

Then the day of the move came. They were supposed to arrive at 8 AM, so we brought the cats to my mother’s the night before. At 7.30 AM a giant truck arrived in the tiny dead-end street behind our house. We had to ask some neighbours to get their cars out, otherwise they’d be stuck until we were gone…
There were to guys doing the move. They went through the house one time to see what they wanted first. Then one guy stood in the truck while Jay, the other guy and I were given instructions as to what the guy in the truck wanted us to bring out. Within 30 minutes all big pieces of furniture, washing machine, dryer, fridge and freezer were gone. At 10 AM everything was packed in the truck, even our bikes. The house was almost empty, just a few pieces we were adamant we wanted to do ourselves (pc’s for example) remained.

So we sat off. I remember telling them not to go through the tiny villages most GPS devices tell you to go through. They drove away while we followed. We had to stop briefly to get more water out of the fish bowl, as it was too full. And then we didn’t see them again. I drove quickly, not caring too much about any speedinglimits, in order to get close to the truck again. But they were nowhere to be seen. By the time we were fairly close to our new town we were starting to wonder where they’d gone…
Turns out our instructions weren’t clear enough and they ended up on the very small country roads with a giant truck… Must have been so much fun.

When they finally arrived, a good 20 minutes after we arrived, they were greeted with coffee and cake. They started unpacking the truck and around 2 PM everything was in the house, most of our stuff was where we wanted it and they were off for their next job.
I still can’t believe how quickly and smoothly everything went! They only broke one bookcase when it fell over. Everything else was fine.

We picked up the cats around 4 PM and that was about it basically. I can tell you, I never want to do another move. But if I have to, I won’t hesitate to get those guys in again. So much easier, quicker and less painful than doing it yourself.

So if you are going to move and have doubts if you can do it yourself, don’t! Hire a removal company. Ask a few quotes and choose whichever you feel most secure with.

An AngelFrouk Christmas

Northernmum asked how other bloggers spend their Christmas, so I thought I’d share our Christmas rituals.

Christmas Cat

On Christmas day we usually stay home. We have a nice lie-in til around 9 AM (we are usually up around 6 AM). Then I take my meds and pre-heat the oven. We have breakfast with hot buns, croissants and freshly pressed orange juice. After breakfast I take a shower and we get dressed. Then it’s usually spending time behind the pc, do some gaming or (if the weather’s nice) go for a walk.

Boxing day is usually spend at my parents in law’s. We arrive around 11 AM, have cake and other yummy food. Around 2 PM we go for a walk (if the weather lets us). At 5 PM my sister-in-law and her boyfriend arrive and we sit down for dinner. Sis-in-laws boyfriend usually drinks too much, gets really annoying, so after dinner, if they don’t get out, we go home pretty quick. Funny thing about having dinner at my parents-in-laws is we all get to cook our own food! table barbecue, they call it. I call it laziness (but still love it).

Why am I here?

This weekend’s Daily Prompt was to write about your earliest memory. But since I was away for most of the weekend I’ve missed the oportunity to write it. I thought now is a good time.

My earliest memory is one that scientists say I can’t have. They say children start remembering things from about 2 years onwards.
My first memory is from when I was just a few weeks old.

Let me explain. I have an eidetic memory. I remember everything. Always. Which is not a great as it sounds. It means you remember all the bad things too. I can’t block memories.
When I was a baby I had a white and green crib. I was in June and my mother used to put a mosquito net over my crib. It was held to the crib with big pegs. What I remember is that I was lying in my crib, looking around. My vision was a bit blurred, it was as if I had water in my eyes. I saw my mother standing near the wardrobe. She grabbed the mosquito net and the pegs and put it over my crib. I remember wondering where I was, why I was here and who that lady was. I felt love for her but I couldn’t remember her. My mother said something that I couldn’t understand and she left. I raised my hands and touched the netting.

That is basically all I remember. Some have tried to tell me that I must have been older, but that doesn’t stroke with what I remember. I was lying on my back and touched the mosquito net. Now, if I had been older, the bed would have been lowered to it’s lowest position (I was  happily walking with 9 months). If it had been on it’s lowest I wouldn’t have been able to touch the net. If I had been older I would’ve understood something of what she was saying and I would’ve recognized her. I can’t have been more then a few weeks old, since you don’t put a mosquito net up in the heart of winter. This has made me believe that my memory is true.

Note that I’m a firm believer in reincarnation. This memory makes my believe even stronger.

Why babies are creepy

This week, once again, has made it awfully clear that I really don’t like kids. My sister-in-law called with the news that she’s pregnant. I already knew this, as it was showing in her whole body a couple of weeks ago. But now she wanted to share the big news with her brother and sis-in-law. Too bad I’m not really happy about it. I am happy for her, just not for me.

I’ve said this before, I don’t like kids. They’re very annoying and scare the crap out of me. I’ll show you why.


This is how I see babies. They’ve got huge heads, big bulging eyes and I have no idea if they come in peace or not. Most likely not, according to my ears. They scream, cry, yell, whine, whimper and howl. They stink, smell and reek.

You are familiar with Pavlov, right? If not, open the link and then come back. I’ll wait for you.
From day one we condition babies by giving them attention as soon as they start crying. The kid will learn that crying is a good thing. Crying gets rewarded with attention, a bottle or a clean diaper. Then, when the kid is about two years old, two years worth of conditioning, we say to them “oh, by the way, crying (which gave you all the attention before) is a bad thing. We don’t want crying, from now on we want you to talk.” Confusing much?

In my opinion, kids shouldn’t be seen or heard until they are at least ten years old. By that time they’ve probably learned that they shouldn’t talk unless someone talks to them. If they haven’t, this should be a good way of keeping them quiet.

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bbaltimore/243992346/
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyntiry/3992988737/

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

This may sound weird, but I’m not going to post the 2 photo’s I’m really thankful for. Instead I’ll post another one of the same person.

This is my grandmother on her 90th birthday. She died almost a year ago, 92 years old. The last years of her life she spent in a nursing home. She had severe Alzheimer’s and recognized nobody anymore. This photo is how I think she saw the world. People around her sounding, smelling familiar, but no idea who they are.

The photo’s I’m thankful for are 2 I made the two days before her death. They are very private and I don’t think I’ll ever show them anyone else but my family. But I’m grateful for the fact I made them.

For more entries, click here.

Macaroon Pudding

Mrs. L. was a tiny woman who came to live in the nursing home where I worked after her husband couldn’t cope with her Alzheimer’s anymore. When she came in she was walking, but within a few months she was in bed, unable to get out, stand or walk. She was lying in a fetal position most of the time. It was very sad to see her like that, with her husband on the side of the bed most days.

Mrs. L. rapidly deteriorated and eventually she couldn’t do anything herself anymore. She began to bite, scratch and pinch when she was unable to tell us what she wanted. She couldn’t talk anymore, couldn’t find any words. And we thought she didn’t understand us most of the time. I can’t even count the times I had bruises on my arms and hands. A coworker had to walk around with a black eye for a week when Mrs. L. managed to hit her full on the eye.

This particular sunday I was giving Mrs. L. her food. Despite being a tiny woman, she could eat loads and always enjoyed her food. At least, that’s what I thought. On the menu was chicken soup, meatloaf, cooked potatoes with carrots and macaroon pudding. Up until now I’d always told Mrs. L. what I was giving her, but I never ever felt like she understood what I was saying. So I decided I could get away with not telling her.

“Here’s your soup, Mina.” I said while I held the spoon in front of her face. She opened her mouth and the soup went down in no time. The meatloaf followed, as did the carrots. By the time I wanted to give her the pudding Mrs. L. tried to grab the spoon. I gently put her hands under the duvet as I really didn’t want to change the bedding again. I’d already done it that morning when she managed to grab the spoon with porridge while I looked to her roommate for a moment. Mrs. L. got angry and tried to pinch me. I tucked in the duvet so she couldn’t grab my hands or any other part of my body she wanted to grab.

“Open wide, Mina.” I told her. But Mrs. L. kept her mouth shut. I tried again. “Mina, it’s your pudding.” Still nothing. I could see she was getting tired and not only did she keep her mouth shut, her eyes were glazing over as well. I had to get that pudding in fast or else she wouldn’t get any pudding at all. So I tried one last time. “Come on, Mina, you won’t get any if you don’t open your mouth.”

And she did open her mouth. Then it happened…
Mrs. L. took one spoonful of macaroon pudding, opened her eyes and said: “Oh delicious, macaroon pudding.”

From that moment I always told Mrs. L. what I was feeding her. And when I found a portion of macaroon pudding lying around in the fridge I always took time to give her some. Even if it wasn’t time for food.