Cancelled – “What If It’s NOT Parkinson’s?” Webinar on Tuesday, June 12th

Update on 6/11/18:  Unfortunately this webinar is now cancelled.

Brain Support Network group member Steven Russell shared with me today info on an upcoming webinar, which will give an overview of all four of the atypical parkinsonism disorders — MSA, LBD, PSP, and CBD.  Details are:

What If It’s NOT Parkinson’s?

In this webinar, Dr. Mihaela Alexander, Colorado Neurodiagnostics, will discuss atypical parkinsonisms such as multiple system atrophy and Lewy body dementia, among others (PSP, CBD). Dr. Alexander will cover what we know about these conditions and what treatments are available for each condition.

Tuesday, June 12
10-11am CA time

Organizer:
Parkinson Association of the Rockies, Denver, parkinsonrockies.org

Registration:
attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3367947443153312002

General Information:  (same as what is above)
parkinsonrockies.org/programs-services/event-calendar/276/2018-06-12/what-if-it-s-not-parkinson-s-webinar

 

“Lewy Body Rollercoaster” – Alzheimer’s Weekly

Here’s an excerpt from an Alzheimer’s Weekly article from April 12, 2014 about Lewy body dementia (LBD):

www.alzheimersweekly.com/2014/07/lewy-body-rollercoaster.html

Excerpts from

Lewy Body Rollercoaster
April 12, 2014
Alzheimer’s Weekly

Attention, alertness and cognition have dramatic fluctuations in Lewy Body dementia. Caregivers call these ups and downs “The Roller-Coaster of LBD.”

“I watched my husband experience a decline in cognition followed by a period of what seemed like improved function only to plunge again into confusion with more frequent hallucinations,” says one caregiver newly acquainted with Lewy body dementia (LBD). According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA), these ups and downs in function are sometimes refer to by family caregivers as the “roller-coaster effect” of LBD. Fluctuating levels of cognitive ability, attention and alertness are one of the core features of LBD.

Important Diagnosis
“The combination of the motor signs of Parkinson’s disease (slowed mobility, stooped posture and tremor) and mental confusion, especially if the degree of confusion fluctuates day to day, should raise a red flag for suspicion of LBD,” says Howard I. Hurtig, M.D., Chair, Department of Neurology, Pennsylvania Hospital, and Elliott Professor of Neurology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. “If those symptoms are accompanied or preceded by REM sleep behavior disorder (vivid dreams, dream enactment, hitting bed partner, falling out of bed) and visual hallucinations (seeing people, animals, etc., that aren’t truly there), then the diagnosis of LBD is almost certain. Even when all symptoms of LBD are present, it is critical for the evaluating doctor to look for underlying, TREATABLE causes of dementia.” A thorough assessment will include an inventory of daily medications (drugs can produce a “chemical” state of pseudodementia), CT or MRI scan of the brain, blood tests for thyroid function and vitamin deficiency and other causes of dementia that can be identified by routine study.

Following Alzheimer’s disease, LBD is the most misdiagnosed form of dementia but the second most common cause of progressive dementia, affecting 1.3 million Americans. LBD is associated with abnormal protein deposits in the brain, called Lewy bodies, that impair thinking, movement, sleep and behavior (causing people to see hallucinations or act out dreams, sometimes violently). Also, it affects autonomic body functions, such as blood pressure control, temperature regulation, and digestion. Recognizing symptoms early can help people with LBD get comprehensive and appropriate treatment and help caregivers get much needed support. It’s difficult to diagnose LBD, because its early symptoms resemble symptoms found in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Man found joy in completing puzzles that were family photos

This article from last year is about twin daughters who discovered a company that created puzzles from family photographs, and that their father with Lewy body dementia (LBD) really enjoyed putting together these puzzles.

This activity might be of interest to more than those with dementia.

www.brainandlife.org/the-magazine/article/app/13/1/23/puzzle-power-as-lewy-body-dementia-narrowed-their-fathers-world

Congratulations to “Sue’s Story”

Congratulations to “Sue’s Story” — winner of the “Audience Choice Award” for the best documentary at last weekend’s Jasper Poppy International Film Festival in Morgan Hill, California. When Sue Berghoff was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), her life was turned upside down. Like most people, she had never heard of the disease even though it is the second most prevalent form of dementia after Alzheimer’s. She encountered a society in which the existence of dementia is burdened by misconceptions, fear and shame. What she did next created a ripple effect of hope and change. Sue’s husband Chuck Berghoff is a member of Brain Support Network’s  LBD caregiver support group. Brain Support Network’s CEO Robin Riddle appears in the documentary, speaking about the importance of brain donation for LBD and the value of a caregiver support group. Stay tuned to Brain Support Network for more news about the distribution of “Sue’s Story.”

Capgras syndrome – almost 20% of people with LBD have

This is a sad but helpful article on Capgras syndrome, a specific type of delusion where a person believes that loved ones have been replaced by identical duplicates. They often believe that the loved one has been kidnapped and the “imposter” is a bad person. This is very common within our local Lewy body dementia support group. According to the article, one report showed a prevalence of 16.6 percent of those with LBD have Capgras syndrome.

Here’s a link to the article in today’s Washington Post:

 

www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/this-strange-syndrome-causes-people-to-think-their-loved-ones-have-been-replaced-by-identical-impostors/2018/04/06/0091f168-1be6-11e8-9de1-147dd2df3829_story.html

Health & Science
This strange syndrome causes people to think their loved ones have been replaced by identical impostors
Washington Post
By Meeri Kim
April 7, 2018

Robin

 

Anosognosia – lack of awareness (not denial) of one’s own dementia

This short article from Next Avenue (nextavenue.org) is about anosognosia, or the lack of awareness of one’s own dementia.  This is not denial but being unaware.  “This lack of awareness can cause major stress and heartache for caregivers.”

Here’s a short excerpt:

Both of Kathy Kling’s parents, who are divorced, have Alzheimer’s. Kling recently talked with her mother, Karen Kelly, about her father’s disease. “Oh, I hope I never get it,” her mother replied.  She was diagnosed six years ago.

The full article is here:

www.nextavenue.org/parent-doesnt-recognize-dementia/

When Your Parent Doesn’t Know He Has Dementia
It’s a common aspect of the disorder, but tough on caregivers
By Emily Gurnon, Health & Caregiving Editor
Next Avenue
March 28, 2018

Robin

 

“Choose Your Attitude for the Journey” (empowering caregivers for the long journey)

Though this handout is for a dementia caregiving class by a woman whose husband had Lewy body dementia, I think this resource applies to all caregivers. In the few places below where you see “LBD,” replace that term with the disorder with which you are coping (if it’s not LBD).  See what you think….

Online friend Pat Snyder’s husband John died with Lewy body dementia in November 2015. She is the author of a wonderful book for those coping with the early stages of LBD titled “Treasures in the Darkness: Extending the Early Stage of LBD” (available through Amazon.com). Pat generously gave us a copy, which is circulating among local support group members.

Pat is teaching a dementia caregiver class in Wake Forest, NC. Her mission is to teach as many “rubber meets the road” tools and techniques as she can, in a context of preserving personhood for the patient while educating, encouraging, and empowering the caregiver.

Pat recently shared the notes from the first lesson of this caregiving class. She recommends five initial steps that all caregivers take at the beginning of their caregiving journey so that they can be strong for the duration of that journey. The five steps are:

• Be positive
• Be proactive
• Be perceptive
• Be persistent
• Personify the disease

The lesson goes through these five points. Pat gave permission for me to share her lesson notes here.

Robin
————————-

“Choose Your Attitude for the Journey” (Lesson 1**)
from Dementia Caregiver Class in Wake Forest, NC
by Pat Snyder ([email protected])
February 2018

There are five first steps that I recommend for you to take as you begin your dementia caregiving journey. These approaches will strengthen you in that role for the duration:

• Be positive
• Be proactive
• Be perceptive
• Be persistent
• Personify the disease

Be positive.

After your Loved One’s diagnosis of dementia you are likely to be overwhelmed with negative emotions. These emotions are your first hurdle to overcome, and they tend to be ongoing.

Therefore, a commitment to use positive choices to overcome negative feelings is a technique that will serve you well throughout your time as a caregiver.

Using a positive attitude to overcome a negative situation is not denial of it but a conscious effort on your part to override its impact. There are a number of ways to address this choice of being positive. It takes self-discipline and commitment to fight back an enemy that is trying to steal precious moments from your lives. It often involves doing the opposite of what you are feeling in the moment. So first, identify that negative feeling. Then choose to go in another direction. For example, if you feel sad, try to spend time with a friend who makes you laugh. If you feel empty, make a list of three things for which you are grateful.

These kinds of choices may feel simplistic and artificial when you first start to practice them. Over time, you will feel the benefit of not allowing the negative emotions to swamp you, keeping you in a slump of inactivity and helplessness. You will begin to feel empowered and purposeful in your role. Then you will realize that your positive choices have a profound impact on your Loved One’s experience of dementia.

Be proactive.

You need to take action and not just react to what happens. Being proactive is an ongoing requirement. As you begin to assume your role, these actions will empower you:

• Learn about dementia symptoms.
• Learn about treatments for LBD symptoms.
• Learn about non-pharmacological (non-drug) interventions.
• Learn to identify the specific triggers that affect your Loved One’s experience of LBD.
• Find the right doctor who knows how to treat LBD
• Connect with other LBD caregivers to continue strengthening yourself.

When your Loved One received the diagnosis, you likely also received some printed materials that defined LBD and directed you to some helpful resources available in your community. However, you will need to seek out more in-depth knowledge in order to fulfill your role as the caregiver.

Do not overwhelm yourself in the beginning. Learn about the basics and gradually add more knowledge. It is important to get information from reliable sources. Use only trusted print and non-print resources. Look at the websites of government agencies, universities, hospitals, and associations like LBDA. Find medical journals, articles, and books written by experts and online support groups that offer reliable information and social support. Search for the right doctor who specializes in LBD care or who is willing to learn about proper treatment for this challenging and complex disease. Do not settle for one who does not respect you as the key member of the care team.

Be perceptive.

Be sensitive to the emotional and psychological impacts that dementia can have on you and your family. If left unaddressed, these things can have devastating physical consequences for you and your Loved One. They may determine how gentle the journey is for all of you. The diagnosis is likely to magnify any pre-illness emotional and interpersonal issues. Therefore, it is important to clearly identify those and learn how to manage them better. Doing this could provide significantly better outcomes for everyone. Consider including a counselor as a member of your health care team to help you address communication issues that need attention, relationship dynamics, and any pre-illness issues that can affect how you manage the symptoms of LBD, forgiveness of past hurts, and grief issues.

A second element of being perceptive is to be sensitive to your Loved One’s symptoms. You see him every day, unlike doctors who see him only for a short time during office visits. You need to observe and record changes in physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms. Report these changes to the dementia specialist and work together to find solutions. Dementia patients may practice “Showtime” behaviors at doctor appointments, which make them seem to be much better than they are on a daily basis at home. Your report to the doctor keeps the information balanced, honest, and accurate. Sometimes changes in medicine can bring about an improvement of symptoms. At other times, non-drug choices can address these issues.

The third element of being perceptive is to identify the specific triggers that affect your Loved One’s experience of LBD in a negative way. This is where many non-drug interventions can have huge positive impacts on living daily with dementia.

Examples of simple changes with big impacts may be:
• Softening the light in the room
• Using oils like lavender to calm agitation
• Playing favorite music
• Having only one person speak at a time while in the room
• Explaining what you are about to do before you begin to do it

These may seem like small things, but they can make a big difference in the person’s disease experience. You must be alert and perceptive to see what things trigger agitation or frustration. Then you can communicate with key individuals how those things must change in order to make the best care choices.

Be persistent.

Being an dementia caregiver is a long-term commitment. It is a marathon, not a sprint.

The term Lewy roller coaster for LBD folks has been coined to describe the experience due to the ups and downs in cognitive, physical, behavioral, sleep, and psychological symptoms. Your choice to be positive, proactive, and perceptive must be of a continuing, ongoing nature. You need to persist through these fluctuations as your Loved One progressively declines. It is a daily choice.

As new symptoms emerge over time, you will need to learn more and stay up to date about research and treatments that could be helpful. As your care continues, you will monitor disease symptoms daily. At times, you may question the efficacy of an intervention. Is the intervention working, or is this symptom simply a manifestation of the fluctuations of the disease? This is a typical question for you to ask in your role as care partner. Sometimes you will use your intuition correctly and change course. Other times you may not discover the answer. That is also typical, so do not blame yourself at these times.

You will also monitor those who are involved in your Loved One’s treatment and support. Part of your role is to teach any new person on the health care team about your Loved One’s expression of dementia. You may also need to teach them how to best approach the situations that arise in his care. You will deal with significant family members and friends who encounter him. All these things involve a consistent approach on your part. If your Loved One moves into a nursing home or similar facility, your role as advocate and educator will escalate.

Your steadfast persistence will pay off in a gentler LBD journey for everyone. This is one of those places in life where you clearly will make a difference. It is not easy, but it is doable — and it is worth it.

Personify the Disease

One of the most helpful decisions I made early in my Lewy Body Dementia journey with my husband was to personify “Lewy”. It had a huge impact on my grandsons as well as on John and me.

John’s neurologist, Dr. Daniel Kaufer, told us on our first appointment with him that preserving personhood was our key goal for John in all decisions about his care. That resonated with me. It became my touchstone when I had to decide what to do as various symptoms and events presented themselves in our journey.

In my mind, I separated John from his disease. I gave the disease a personal kind of name—Lewy. It gave me someone to blame, who clearly was at fault for whatever was happening. It gave me the power to separate John from actions or words he might do or say that were hurtful. “That’s Lewy talking right now. Just ignore it.” I could say that to myself and know that I was correct. John was not at fault. Truth was not being spoken. A clear enemy was in the room with us, and my job became how to outsmart that enemy. It gave me emotional distance so I could think clearly, problem solve better, and respond kindly to John.

I saw it as a kind of psychological and emotional warfare for a good purpose. Although my enemy was formidable, I still won significant battles along the way that made our overall experience of LBD less damaging to both of our lives. There was victory and empowerment in winning those battles. I was preserving personhood for John and for myself by personifying Lewy.

It also worked beautifully with our grandsons, who were young when John had LBD. When the oldest, Michael, was about five years old, he was chatting happily in the backseat of our car as we drove along a lovely country road. All of a sudden, John barked at Michael harshly and told him he needed to be quiet. Before I had time to think it through, I spoke up and said, “Michael, that is just that mean old Lewy talking to you right now. Your Pops would never talk to you like that. Pops loves you, Michael.” Fortunately, John responded with silence. This caused me to begin using the “mean old Lewy” explanation with all the grandsons from that point on. I would tell them if they entered the room and Pops looked angry or spoke harshly to just leave the room right away. “That was Lewy, not your Pops. Wait a bit and go back to see Pops later.” The boys all seemed to accept that explanation as making complete sense to them. It likely worked because it matched what happened to them. They would reenter the room later and find their sweet Pops happy to see them as usual.. Sometimes I would speak to John and remind him to be especially kind to the boys. We also tried to have only one child at a time in the room with John if he was agitated or tired.

Another example shows how personifying Lewy played out with John. One day John began to have trouble speaking. He babbled a kind of gibberish. I touched his head tenderly and said, “Sweetheart, I can see that you know exactly what you want to say. Right now Lewy is messing with the connection between your thoughts and your ability to speak. Close your eyes, take a nap, and when you wake up you will be able to say whatever you want.” John closed his eyes immediately and went to sleep. When he awakened, he was able to speak normally. That level of trust had been established over a period of years along with the habit of blaming Lewy when a bad symptom presented itself. John had learned that Lewy came and went, and he trusted me to point that out for him. It seemed to keep his anxiety lower.

Personifying Lewy gave the boys more of a sense of empowerment. They clearly stopped taking it personally when John’s disease made him appear mean to them. It also gave them someone to blame for what was happening. It made everything make more sense somehow for all of us while it protected John from the blame he did not deserve. Personifying Lewy enabled me to do a better job of separating the disease from my husband, thereby preserving his personhood while protecting my own heart from being bruised by some of Lewy’s antics.

These first steps lay a foundation for a more gentle journey. Each of them helps you to stay ahead of the disease so you have more control over your daily life. Each of them will make you a better caregiver.

 

**A draft form of this lesson first appeared in a free online booklet, “Prepare to Be an Engaged LBD Care Partner,” by Rosemary Dawson, Jeff Maruna, and Pat Snyder. The booklet may be found here:

www.lbdtools.com/files/CPGuide%20Dawson.pdf

**A briefer form was published by LBDA.org in Resources section.

 

“‘Therapeutic Lying’ and Other Ways To Handle Patients With Dementia”

A family in the local support group has been struggling with their loved one’s delusions.  I suggested “white lies,” which made the family uncomfortable.  I found this 2004 article from The Wall Street Journal (wsj.com) offering three approaches for families to communicate with family members with dementia — therapeutic lying, Aikido, and validation therapy.  These approaches all “require the caregiver to give up trying to force the dementia patient to accept reality, and surrender instead to the fact that the patient is living in another mental and emotional world.”

Here’s a quick example of the three approaches.  “For instance, if Mom insists that she and her long-dead friend Mavis are going out dancing, here are some possible responses:”

* Therapeutic lying: “Mavis won’t be here until later, Mom. Let’s go to the mall for a while and take a walk.”

* Aikido: “I can see you miss having outings with your friends. I share your frustration. The senior center is offering waltz lessons. Would you like to sign up?”

* Validation Therapy: “You wish you could go out dancing again. I remember how beautifully you used to dance. What was it like to go out dancing with your friends? Isn’t that how you met Dad?”

Here’s a link to the full article:

www.wsj.com/articles/SB110012626318870633

WORK & FAMILY
‘Therapeutic Lying’ and Other Ways To Handle Patients With Dementia
By Sue Shellenbarger ([email protected]), Staff Reporter
The Wall Street Journal
Updated Nov. 11, 2004 12:01 a.m. ET

“Unfortunate Irony Turns Renowned Scientist Into Caregiver For His Wife”

This is a nice article about a scientist who spent years studying Parkinson’s and then became a caregiver for his wife who was diagnosed in 2011 with Lewy body dementia (called “cortical Lewy body disease” in the article).  The wife, a former preacher, had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2004.

This article was published on Flatland (flatlandkc.org), the digital magazine of KCPT Public Television in Kansas City, MO.  My browser did NOT like the Flatland website, which is a shame because there are some photos accompanying the article.  The article was shortened and re-published on NextAvenue (nextavenue.org).  Below, find the text of the original article and links to both websites.

Robin


www.flatlandkc.org/news-issues/cover-story/bill-priscilla-neaves/ –> my browser did NOT like this website

www.nextavenue.org/sad-irony-scientist-caregiver/ –> shorter version of article is here

Faith And Love
Unfortunate Irony Turns Renowned Scientist Into Caregiver For His Minister Wife
By Barbara Shelly
Flatland
January 1st, 2018 at 6:00 AM

Churchgoers at a tidy, white-steepled United Methodist Church in Carrollton, Missouri, heard a frank admission from their guest pastor one spring morning in 2007.

“When asked to preach this Sunday, I almost said no,” Priscilla Wood Neaves told the congregation. “Why? Not because I lacked training and experience, and I have always enjoyed preaching.”

She had, in fact, fought for the right to preach. As a girl growing up in the 1950s in the Texas panhandle, Neaves was told that women could not be ordained ministers in the United Methodist Church. The information was erroneous, but not until she left Texas for college, marriage and motherhood did she encounter a female pastor who could disprove it.

Eventually Neaves graduated from the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, became an ordained Methodist minister and hospital chaplain, and gathered a wealth of life experiences to frame her sermons.

And then life dealt a blow that temporarily stilled her voice.

“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease three years ago,” Neaves told the congregation in Carrollton, “and I have not formally ‘proclaimed the Word’ since then. I guess it was because of feeling a mixture of fear and anger directed toward God.”

Listening in the congregation to the candid and unusual sermon was the preacher’s husband, Bill Neaves. Never entirely comfortable with church and organized religion, he kept a low profile. Few in the country church knew that, while Priscilla was wrestling with her medical diagnosis, Bill was engaged in a professional and political struggle involving the search for cures for diseases like Parkinson’s.

Childhood sweethearts from Spur, Texas, Bill and Priscilla Neaves both packed up briefcases stuffed with credentials when they moved to Kansas City in 2000.

He had been dean and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, a lauded institution where Nobel Prize winners worked with other faculty members to advance science and medicine. She was a chaplain at Children’s Medical Center Dallas — a front-line responder to small patients and their families in moments of fear, relief and overwhelming grief.

James Stowers, founder and CEO of American Century Investments, had consulted with Bill Neaves about a research facility he was creating in Kansas City. He envisioned a place in his hometown where premier scientists would have resources and time to study the causes of diseases and embark on a search for cures. Stowers asked Neaves to be the first president and CEO of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.

“I was enthusiastic about it,” Neaves says. “Few people want to support basic science.”

But he needed to persuade Priscilla. She had balked at several other moves when opportunities had arisen. After a dinner with Stowers; his wife, Virginia; and other family members, she agreed. Neither Bill nor Priscilla Neaves had any way of knowing that during the next few years his new job would come to involve politics as much as science, and her physical and spiritual health would be put to the test.

Priscilla quickly dived into life in Kansas City by joining the board of directors of the medical ethics research and advocacy group now known as The Center for Practical Bioethics. She also joined the Institutional Review Board for Children’s Mercy Hospital.

The first signs of trouble appeared in the fall of 2003. Priscilla didn’t feel well; something was off, she said. She wasn’t able to walk with her normal stride. When the odd symptoms persisted for a few weeks, Bill tapped his medical contacts.

In January 2004, a physician at the University of Kansas Hospital diagnosed Parkinson’s disease. Another physician at Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis concurred.

As Priscilla noted in her sermon a few years later, the news came as a blow. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that hinders the brain’s ability to produce dopamine, the transmitter that enables people to regulate motor functions.

Still, the disorder progresses slowly in most people, and Priscilla was accustomed to a busy and productive life. She became a full-time volunteer chaplain at Carroll County Memorial Hospital in 2006 after the couple purchased a farm about 60 miles northeast of Kansas City. In that capacity, she provided spiritual resources and facilitated support groups for cancer and Parkinson’s patients.

Though his wife’s health was a concern, Bill Neaves was ebullient about progress at the Stowers Institute in its early years. First-rate scientists had indeed been willing to come to Kansas City, and they were engaged in rigorous and productive research.

One cloud on the horizon was legislation that kept resurfacing in the Missouri General Assembly. Pushed by Matt Bartle, a lawyer and at the time a state senator from Lee’s Summit, its stated purpose was to ban human cloning. But Bartle’s definition of cloning went far beyond a scenario in which a squawking baby might emerge from a laboratory. His bill aimed to ban even the copying of human embryos as small as a few dozen cells.

Those miniscule lab dish embryos are home to embryonic stem cells that can be formed with a patient’s DNA. Scientists believe the newly created cells can be used to repair tissue, organs and nerves damaged by all manner of injuries and diseases. In the early 2000s, they eyed the laboratory procedure with great hope.

To Bartle and others, it represented a moral threat. That’s because, once embryonic stem cells are harvested, the tiny embryo that sheltered them is destroyed. What some people viewed as a somewhat mysterious lab dish procedure, religious conservatives saw as the willful termination of human life.

The issue made it to the November 2006 ballot in the form of a constitutional amendment that would protect all scientific research in Missouri that was legal under federal law.

Jim and Virginia Stowers spent $30 million to bankroll the campaign supporting the amendment. Opponents formed their own coalition and also raised millions of dollars. Missouri citizens were besieged by television ads alternately lauding the promise of stem cell research and issuing dire, if misleading, warnings about cloning.

Bill Neaves was in the thick of it all. He wrote essays and traveled the state, speaking to groups to explain what embryonic stem cell research meant for science and the Stowers Institute. He touted its potential to stop or slow the suffering from devastating diseases. He mentioned Parkinson’s disease. What he never said publicly was that the person closest to him had been diagnosed with that illness.

The constitutional amendment passed by a razor-thin margin — a difference of 50,800 votes out of 2.1 million cast.

Ultimately, science itself stepped in to bring an uneasy truce. A Japanese researcher found a way to make adult cells behave like embryonic cells, with the same capacity to repair and rebuild damaged body parts. The reprogramming method is less costly than the somatic cell nuclear transfer procedure, and it sidesteps the ethical issues. It is now the preferred avenue for many scientists, including those at the Stowers Institute.

With his wife at his side, Bill Neaves had done his part to stand up for science. But science could not immediately return the favor. It could not stop the frightening changes that were going on in Priscilla’s body.

“For more than a quarter-century, I have retreated each summer to the Beartooth Wilderness on the Boulder River in Montana,” Priscilla Neaves wrote in July 2008. “I relax, enjoy, meditate and relate to God’s magnificent mountains and forests. Perhaps my Native American heritage encourages me to celebrate nature — my paternal grandmother was half Choctaw.”

From the deck of the wilderness home she and Bill cherished, Priscilla wrote of her love of nature, as experienced in Montana, West Texas and New England — all places she had lived. Bill would later include the meditation in a compilation of his wife’s sermons and writings. Soon after that, Priscilla’s illness made further trips impossible. “Mercifully,” Bill wrote in the afterword of the book he compiled in his wife’s honor, “we rarely realize that we are doing a beloved thing for the last time.”

The previous couple of years had been difficult. The couple lost their son, William Jr., in May of 2007. Living in Houston, he had waged a long struggle with alcoholism and died of its complications. “Priscilla was amazingly stoic about it, but I know it must have been incredibly difficult for her,” Bill says now.

She continued her work as a voluntary chaplain and frequently preached sermons in the chapel of Carroll County Memorial Hospital.

“When questions about the meaning and purpose of life hit us like a tornado, God’s grace can be most tangible,” she told her small congregation in 2009. “Job’s way can also be ours. I know. I have been there.”

By this time the Stowers Institute was thriving. Jim and Virginia Stowers had given $2 billion worth of American Century stock to its endowment. Labs were filling up with impressively credentialed scientists. A spinoff biotechnology company, BioMed Valley Technologies Inc., had been formed to move treatments and therapies into clinical development.

In June 2010, Bill Neaves announced he would retire as president and CEO of the institute. He had already begun handing off the day-to-day operations to a protege, David M. Chao.

Neaves talked about wanting more time for research and various projects. He was especially excited about returning to research he’d begun 40 years ago, studying the asexual reproduction patterns of some species of lizards. He didn’t disclose publicly that his family was dealing with an all-consuming illness.

Priscilla’s symptoms were increasingly resembling more of a dementia-type illness than traditional Parkinson’s disease. At the end of 2011, specialists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, found that Priscilla was suffering from cortical lewy body disease — a brain disorder closely related to Parkinson’s but even more devastating. The destruction proceeds beyond motor control to destroy brain neurons associated with cognitive functioning and movement.

Bill Neaves recalls that his wife absorbed the terrible news calmly. “Priscilla was still pretty much intellectually intact then, and I was very impressed with what she said,” he recalls. “The neurologist said, ‘This is what we have, and it will probably be fatal within a year and a half.’ Priscilla said, ‘Well, glad to know what I’m facing, and I know firsthand that a lot worse things have happened to people than what is happening to me.’”

The couple had moved several months earlier into an apartment in Bishop Spencer Place, a retirement facility in midtown Kansas City that has provisions for nursing care. Linda Yeager, who was chaplain there at the time, remembers that Priscilla sought her out.

“She was very anxious for me to know that she was a minister herself, and she was very interested in helping other people,” Yeager said. “She wanted to share her books, and she wanted to do research and help people. She was greatly respected and loved.”

But Priscilla’s disease was progressing rapidly. By 2012, she was experiencing anxiety, confusion and paranoia. Daily tasks such as routine teeth brushing became a struggle.

On the advice of her family physician, Priscilla moved to a Leawood facility that treats patients with dementia. She became bedridden, mostly paralyzed from the chest down, with limited use of her hands. Once a passionate voice on nearly every topic, she now spoke only intermittently.

For nearly a year, Priscilla was officially in hospice care.

Bill, who describes himself as “a compulsive-type person,” began preparing for his wife’s death. He made cremation arrangements. He visited a printer and prepared a death announcement for Priscilla. Then he focused on putting together her book, “Sermons and Meditations,” which offers an eloquent, widely sourced study of theology from the perspective of a feminist and an environmentalist.

“That was a very therapeutic thing for me,” Bill says of the book project.

And then the mysterious, maddening, wonderful creation that is the human body served up another surprise. At the end of 2013, Priscilla’s disease stopped progressing. It had run its course, a specialist told Bill. With good care, she could live for a long time. But the damage already done — the paralysis, the speech loss, the loss of memory and cognition — was likely irreversible.

These days, Bill awakens most mornings at 5 a.m. in the apartment he and Priscilla share at Bishop Spencer Place. He sets about slicing up fruits for Priscilla to eat at lunch and supper. About an hour later he escorts his wife to the skilled nursing portion of the complex and sees that she is settled at her usual breakfast table. He makes sure she drinks water.

Bill, 74, and a year older than his wife, then drives to the Stowers Institute, arriving around 6:30 a.m. A tall, rail-thin figure in blue jeans, he glides around its hallways at a clip that feels like a trot if you’re trying to keep up with him. He knows everyone by name, from top scientists to the servers in the cafe. He teaches a research course and writes papers, mostly for scientific publications. He also serves on the boards of several institutions.

Sometimes he visits the institute’s reptile facility, where he and a Stowers scientist, Peter Baumann, continue the study of unisexual lizard reproduction.

A couple of years ago, the scientific journal “Breviora” honored Neaves by lending his name to a new lizard species, aspidoscelis neavesi — Neaves’ whiptail lizard. And very recently, the “Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology,” out of Harvard University, named a different species aspidoscelis priscillae — Priscilla’s whiptail lizard. This is only appropriate. When they were much younger, Priscilla spent months collecting lizards with Bill in the deserts of New Mexico.

Bill Neaves returns to Bishop Spencer Place around 10:30 a.m. and stops in the cafe to buy Priscilla a cup of coffee. He helps her eat lunch and, again, makes sure she drinks water. Then it’s back to the Stowers Institute until about 3:30 p.m. Late afternoons and evenings are consumed by a routine of coffee, dinner, companionship and bedtime preparations.

It’s an “incredibly ritualized schedule,” Bill acknowledges. “But I read somewhere a few years ago that one of the practical bits of advice for people who are into Zen is to turn what might otherwise be routine activity into real rituals. That seems to work for Priscilla and me.”

If life had served up a different set of circumstances, Bill Neaves might be traveling the world right now, speaking at scientific conferences and soaking in the tributes due the founding president of a world-class research facility.

“I’m really glad I don’t have to do that anymore,” he tells me.

“Not that I wouldn’t rather be sitting on our deck looking over the trees at the Beartooth Wilderness in Montana with Priscilla, enjoying a glass of chardonnay, but this isn’t … isn’t bad,” Neaves says. “It’s better than I thought it would be. There’s still enough of Priscilla there to make it feel very rewarding to have the time with her.”

And what about Priscilla, the woman who broke barriers in her church, raised two children, comforted grieving families and lived with Bill in places as far-flung as Boston and Kenya?

For all of her life, she had been a reader, a writer and a thinker. As a hospital chaplain, she kept copious notes about her encounters with patients and their families.

“I was impressed by this woman’s strength,” Priscilla wrote, after an encounter with a single mother. “She did not act like a victim, although she has been victimized and suffered many hard times. She did the best she could, and that was pretty amazing.”

Now the ravages of a terrible disease have left Priscilla unable to write down her thoughts, or verbalize them. But remarks in the sermons that her husband compiled seem prescient.

“Cherish the time you have with those you love,” she counseled a group in the Carroll County Hospital Chapel. “Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t let the deadlines and demands of daily life delay the dreams you share.”

And this: “As we all move closer to a grave, the fleeting time we are given with each other is so precious when measured against the time of eternity. How are we using that time?”

—Barbara Shelly is a veteran journalist and writer based in Kansas City

“Life Lessons From Dad” (Wall Street Journal)

This article is about a son and his wife caring for the son’s parents in the son’s home.  The parents were in their 80s.  The father had a diagnosis of dementia.  The author says:  “Caring for an ailing parent is a life-changing event. Beyond the sadness and suffering, the experience can teach caregiving children a lot about toughness, perseverance and especially love.”

On the Wall Street Journal website (online.wsj.com), there is a 4-minute video interview of the author.  The video can be watched at no charge, after an advertisement.

Here’s a link to the full article about “life lessons from dad”:  (the full article is viewable only if you make a payment to the WSJ)

https://www.wsj.com/articles/life-lessons-from-dad-caring-for-an-elderly-parent-1403886423

Life Lessons From Dad — Caring for an ailing parent is a life-changing event; beyond the sadness and suffering, the experience can teach us a lot about toughness, perseverance and, especially, love
By Dave Shiflett
28 June 2014
The Wall Street Journal

Robin