Friday, August 26, 2011

'Make It Work'

Anyone who's a fan of the reality TV competition Project Runway is familiar with mentor Tim Gunn's trademark expression, "Make it work." It's advice for designers to do the best they can with what resources and time is left.

That expression was underscored this week when University of Tennesse women's basketball coach Pat Summitt announced she had early onset Alzheimer's Disease and intended to continue working as long as she could.

Alzheimer's is a terminal illness, something we sometimes forget because the disease can take up to 20 years before it claims a life. The average, though, is 8 to 10 years and typically 5 or less for those diagnosed before 65. A lot has to do with any other health factors which could undermine or extend life spans.

At 59, Summitt is one of the most successful coaches in college history and said she wants to continue working as long as possible. Many of us derive at least part of our personal worth from our occupations, and it's one reason that it is important to making loved ones continue to feel valued. If they were a lawyer, you might send them into a home office to do "research." If they worked retail, they may enjoy folding laundry and displaying it on a dining room table. If they were a homemaker, a simple meal they can prepare would make their day.

Consider ways that you can help your loved one with dementia continue to feel productive in the early stages, when they still have the cognitive ability to perform simple and maybe even complex tasks. It will go a long way in making their day - and yours.

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