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Foreword

By Lela Knox Shanks,
Lecturer and author of Your Name is Hughes Hannibal Shanks:
A Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimers


          Still Giving Kisses is an upbeat, positive presentation of a
daughter’s love and devotion to her mother who has Alzheimer’s
disease.  But this book is much more than that.

It is distinctly unique because Barbara Smith combines a
daughter’s love with her skills and training as an occupational therapist
to write a warm and instructive book for caregivers of persons with
Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  She explains the symptoms and stages
of AD along with tips for modifying the environment.  No detail is too
small to make the home environment safe for Smith’s mother, Sarah,
while she could still live independently.  For example, Smith replaced
burning candles with electric candles for Sarah.  Many of the tips and
information in the book could also be helpful to older persons in general. 

Smith also includes techniques and suggestions for redirecting
inappropriate behaviors as the  person progresses in the disease. She
gives information on medications for AD.  She also includes an appendix
with references and resources that run the gamut of information that
families need throughout the caregiving experience.

  This book is a must-read for professionals who work with persons
with AD and their families. It could also be used as a tool for in-service
training for all staff working in nursing facilities, especially program and
activity directors.   The author’s creative ideas, which are often linked
to sensory stimulation, could be helpful to all types of caregivers.

The book unfolds in story form with several short chapters, making
it easy to read and to understand. Smith includes pictures of Sarah and
her family and tells the story like she is talking to you personally. She narrates
with humor and candor, starting most chapters with a short funny story. 
She writes honestly and frankly about her mother and her extended families.
She takes the reader from Sarah living independently to moving into assisted
living; and finally on to skilled nursing care.  She provides lots of tips on what to
look for in choosing a nursing home, and she stresses the need for family
members to be a strong advocate for their loved one in a nursing facility.

Along with telling her mother’s story, Smith fills her book with word games,
songs, individualized puzzles linked to her mother’s culture, etc., all designed
to stimulate long term memory, and thus, bring some comfort, no matter how
brief, to the person with AD.

As an occupational therapist, Smith came to the task of caregiving trained
to focus “on what a person can do,” and trained to promote activities that
enhance the person’s “health, independence, function and self-esteem.” She
already had experience working with persons with limited mental and physical
abilities; and thus, she knew the importance of customizing care for each individual.
This book is a demonstration with many examples of how she modified activities
to match each new phase of her mother’s progressive mental and physical decline.

         Smith also emphasizes the importance of matching the activities to the
person’s interests.  For example, Sarah loved to sing and had always loved music.
In the late stages of AD when she could no longer operate a CD player, Smith
made a musical hat for her mother.  (The instructions for making the hat are included in
the appendix.)

        Since Sarah is Jewish, Smith points out the importance of institutions being
aware and sensitive to other cultures, ethnicities and religions. She points out the
need to be respectful of dietary considerations and holiday celebrations.

As a member of the sandwich generation, torn between caring for her son
and husband and caring for her mother, Smith shows how her family, including her
one sibling, Ellen, worked together to care for their loved one. Unlike many books
on AD, the reader never gets a feeling of doom and gloom from Smith.  Neither
does one sense a feeling of dread and resentment from the daughter who must
now give so much time to her mother who has AD.

 The great strength of this book is the love and the determination shown
by this daughter to provide  the best care possible for her aging mother with AD.
Smith never gives up on having a purposeful interaction  with her mother who
continues to reward her with kisses.

Lela Knox Shanks, lecturer and author of Your Name is Hughes
Hannibal Shanks: A Caregiver’s Guide to Alzheimers.

Your Name is Hughes Hannibal Shanks

 

Still Giving Kisses    

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