Dakim Blog

July 12, 2011

The Tone Shows, and He Knows It!

Written by: Tina Harris Bergman

There’s really nothing quite so humbling as admitting that my husband is right. Last week, I had no rationalization, no justification, no eloquent self-defense when he pointed out my poor behavior. Mind you, he doesn’t do this very often, but, darn it, when he’s right, he’s right. And all Mike had to say was, “Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

Ouch!

I found Mike’s observation a particularly bitter pill to swallow. After all, I’ve made a darn good living as a professional communicator. I’m a good writer and an excellent public speaker. And, albeit it was some time ago, I did graduate cum laude with a degree in speech and journalism from a major university. Mike and I also did our fair share of pre-marital counseling to give our relationship the best possible chance for success, and we do a pretty good job of getting along. So, to admit my communication skills might be slipping was an ugly prospect.

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June 23, 2011

Share the Wealth: Of Feelings, Learning, and the Rest of the Real Memory Loss Nitty Gritty

Written by: Tina Harris Bergman

Blogging about my husband’s memory loss and how it affects our daily lives is a new experience for me. When I first agreed to blog for Dakim, I had no idea where it would lead. Unlike the many other writing assignments I’ve had, this is not about creating or marketing a new product, polishing a company’s image, or even generating support for a worthy cause. I suppose I could liken it to keeping a personal journal, but I’ve discovered it’s really much more than that – and I’m so grateful.

Let me explain.

First, I felt it was really important to ask my husband, Mike, if he was okay with sharing our personal lives in such a public way. Mike is a pretty easygoing guy, but asking him to expose his struggle with a personal disability to potentially millions of people via the Internet was asking a lot!

Mike deserves tremendous kudos for so readily agreeing to participate in this project. His willingness to “help the other guy” is just one of the many things I love about him. The dialogue that has opened up between us about his mild cognitive impairment has been terrific. He’s interested in what I’m doing, and asking him questions about what he’s experiencing is now much less threatening.

Yes … I really think we’ve begun to move past his denial and my stoicism.

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June 21, 2011

It’s All Brain Exercise, Baby!

Written by: Brenda Matteson

I find that in the working world, success is often about skewing the situation in your favor and playing to your strengths. Whether it is calling a meeting in the morning because you’re sharper then than in the drowsy afternoon, or only communicating through email and letters so you want to avoid having to think on our feet (perhaps not your best cognitive skill!).

Since no one is cognitively perfect, it’s no surprise that we’ve all dabbled in this all of our lives. Such “cognitive coping skills” are the methods we use to stay in the game, protect our dignity, avoid embarrassment, retain control over our lives for as long as we can, and maintain as much of our sense of ourselves as we possibly can.

Photographic portrait of Charles Darwin, naturalist and author

Charles Darwin, naturalist and author of "The Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection"

I think it’s easy to construe such coping skills as games people play, but they’re not. They are a result of the competition and natural selection that drive us at the very core of our being–yup, the stuff Darwin was talking about. Our nature is to keep moving so we can keep up with the pack. Coping skills of the kind I mean are part and parcel of our arsenal of how we do that.

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June 15, 2011

Life is a Confidence Game

Written by: Brenda Matteson

Computer-generated cartoon of a businessman in a suit with a mask and cape, flyingIn his working life, Harry, one of our volunteer game testers whom I’ve mentioned before, was in sales: owning his own company, traveling the world, and ultimately selling his company and retiring. If you’ve ever known someone in sales, you know it takes a lot of personal confidence. When I first met Harry, you could see that in him.

Even though his short-term memory and language have been hard-hit by Alzheimer’s, I contend that Harry still has excellent critical thinking skills that, whether he realizes it or not, are often the way he makes up for those other declining abilities, both in brain exercises and in real life. If he doesn’t know the answer outright (and he isn’t conning me!), he will reason his way through the question and, if not determine the exact right answer, at least make a solid educated guess.

Then again, sometimes I experience that salesmanship of his first-hand on, what I call, “lazy days” (when he doesn’t feel like giving the Dakin BrainFitness System his all). On days like this, he’ll confidently wield his considerable persuasion skills and, if I’m not on the ball, sometimes manage to wheedle the correct answer out of me so he doesn’t have to work for it!

Of course, there are also the days when his response to every memory game is to begin defiantly stabbing all the buttons without thinking about it. On those kinds of days, I know it’s because he’s feeling impatient, frustrated, or both.

It’s not his declining-versus-intact cognitive abilities that are always my biggest concern, though, because whatever kind of day he’s having, I have always known he still had a good deal of fight in him!

A crumbling, all-cap, red word: CONFIDENT

As Harry’s Alzheimer’s has progressed, however, it has been eking away at the confidence he once had in such abundance and relied on in his successful career. More recently, I have seen a growing uncertainty in him; uncertainty as to whether he actually knows the correct answer, can figure it out, or even understands the task before him.

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June 3, 2011

When Denial and Stoicism Got Married in the Midst of Memory Loss

Written by: Tina Harris Bergman

When my husband Mike’s memory issues began affecting our relationship, we chose our separate paths for dealing with it. His was denial; mine was stoicism.

By nature, I am a pretty emotive person, so hiding my feelings didn’t come easily for me. Usually, stoicism would not be my first choice of coping strategies but, at the time, it was very expeditious. We were planning our wedding and had a lot on our plates. Staying focused on the positive seemed to be in everyone’s best interest. I had no doubts we’d be just fine: After all, we really loved each other… right?

Our marriage is a gift from God. My husband and I truly love each other. Perhaps because we met so late in life, it seems like we’re still on our honeymoon, even as our third anniversary nears. My honeymoon with stoicism, however, did not last. I embraced it for awhile, but was not altogether thrilled with the results. Eventually, I turned to my dictionary and looked the word up, just to be certain I was practicing stoicism correctly. What I found was not encouraging, because it seemed awfully extreme.

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