A Beautiful Mind

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My neighbor, Ilse, has a beautiful mind, it just doesn’t always cooperate as she’d like. Dementia has a way of muddling the brain’s communication pathways, leaving a person drifting in and out of a mental fog. Dementia is unpredictable and sometimes unfriendly. One hour you’re laughing and reminiscing, and the next you’re glum and refusing to take a bath.

I write about senior issues, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, for my at-home caregiving client Right at Home. It’s one thing to write about America’s 5 million people with age-related dementia and Alzheimer’s, the number one form of dementia. It’s quite another to personally know someone with the memory, thinking, and behavior disorders.

In February, Ilse’s husband, Herman, died unexpectedly. So their daughter Edie and her husband, Gary, moved in with Ilse as full-time family caregivers. Their sheltie puppy became fast friends with my collie pup. Now we’re more than waving “hi, there,” neighbors. We’re friends. We’re extended family.

Last Friday night, Edie hosted a one-year birthday party for her pup, Dutchess, and invited my puppy Ayrabelle and me. Doggie hats. Doggie balloons. Doggie cake. And a wonderful evening of Ilse fully lucid and loving the frolicking pups. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Ilse so talkative and thrilled.

Dementia can cloud the mind, but not the heart. Else is still my fun-loving, German-born neighbor, and I look forward to more parties and everyday moments when she is fully her
playful self.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. If you know someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, how do you stay connected with the person or the caregivers as the disease progresses with its ups and downs?


Your Beautiful Mind

For 15-plus years I’ve hosted an annual Academy Awards party for former co-workers. We all make foods that represent the nominated Best Pictures. One of the most memorable was my friend Sue’s grayish Jell-O creation molded in the shape of a brain to depict “A Beautiful Mind,” which won best picture for 2001 movies. (I wish I could find my photo of Sue’s ridged, brainy dessert, but alas, my lovely brain just can’t recall where I put that set of pre-digital prints).

3d human brainEven our forgetful minds are quite complex and intriguing. Did you know that the human brain contains one hundred billion nerve cells with millions of connections between these cells? And no two brains are exactly alike. I love how God creates us with similar body structure but with diverse and divine uniqueness.

As part of our intricate makeup, we are allowed to direct and reprogram our minds. A major part of what keeps us resilient and bouncing back from compressing circumstances is our mind and what we choose to think about. The Bible uses the word mind at least 145 times and think about 40 times. Lately, I keep running across the words of Paul from Philippians. Paul wrote this book of the Bible while in prison chained to a guard and waiting execution. Contemplating eternity and the essence of life on this planet, he penned this sage advice: “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (The Message).

We all know life brings us plenty of reasons to dwell on the worst, the ugly, and the cursed. If you’re like me, in the past 24 hours alone, you’ve probably railed against North Korea and the slow guy creeping along in the fast lane. Add in losing sleep with the time change and falling asleep over much of the political rhetoric in our nation and our worst, ugly, cursed thinking expresses itself most unpleasantly. Even if we try to keep our negative perceptions to ourselves, we still may spend too much time and energy on thoughts that weigh us down.

So what are our beautiful minds to do? Paul sums it up: fill your mind and mediate on (i.e. purposely dwell and think upon) “things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best . . . the beautiful . . .” the praiseworthy.

How you change the channel on your thinking matters. While Hollywood salutes the best in the movie industry every year, I salute you for every day training your mind to replace the worst, the ugly, and the cursed with the best, the beautiful, and the praiseworthy. Your mind over matter does matter.

Brave & Resilient Tip #18: Every day purposely choose to think on the best, the beautiful, and the praiseworthy. 


We’ve added more nominated Brave & Resilient People. Check out these honorees under the Tips & Help tab and be sure to nominate your favorite brave and resilient person(s).