Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia – What is the difference? My experience with dementia & how I am learning to accept and cope

I have not been very motivated this week and have been trying to get too many things accomplished in a short amount of time.  Does this sound familiar to you?  I’m tired and the day goes by so fast that by the time dinner is over and the dishes are washed or in the dishwasher, I am done for the day. Resonating now?

I schedule just about everything in my life – cleaning, volunteering, laundry, washing my hair (yep, I schedule that, too), etc.  You name it, I schedule it and it is in my planner.  Since I have started this blog, I have been scheduling time during the week to prepare and write posts as well.  But, for the past week or so, I seem to be falling further and further behind on my to-do-list.  And, writing tutorials and posts takes a lot more time than I planned.  I do have a habit of putting too much pressure on myself and then get to a point where I cannot take any more.  I got to that point today.  Have you been there, too?  I know you have.

However, this blog is important to me and I want to consistently post relevant content.  I was planning to do an “I tried this” post about some recent projects I have completed from pins on Pinterest and posts on Facebook.  But, I am not ready to post that content today.  So, instead of pushing myself further than is necessary, I am going to just write about something meaningful to me. And I hope you may gain some insight as well.

On Tuesday mornings, I visit my grandmother at her assisted living facility.  About 5 years ago, after my grandfather died and my grandmother’s memory deficiencies made it unsafe for her to live alone, my dad and I moved her to the Memory Care Unit at the assisted living facility where she lives today.  We are very lucky, because she has enough money to live in one of the best facilities in the area with a wonderful staff.  It is a difficult situation enough without worrying about her being in a sub-par facility.

With the lack of motivation and energy I have been suffering lately, today’s visit did me in. Although today’s visit was a good one, whether it is good or bad it just makes me sad and drains all of my emotional energy.  I was just spent.  I have also learned in the last few years dealing with my grandmother’s dementia and trying to take care of a family while in the throes of a deep depression – you need to take care of yourself.  If you do not take care of yourself first (which I always thought of as selfish), you are no good to anyone else.  So, when I came home today, I took care of myself.   I curled up on the couch, watched a recording on my DVR and “rested” for the afternoon.

My grandmother is 95 years old and suffers from dementia.  Usually when I talk about my grandmother I just say that she has Alzheimer’s because most people do not understand what dementia is.  I have found some information from the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Blog that may be helpful to you.

In the post Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia are Different on the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Blog, Angela Lunde states, “The term dementia refers to a set of symptoms, not the disease itself.”  In another blog post, Alzheimer’s, Dementia and MCI overlap, But have Different Meanings, Angela writes, “Memory loss generally occurs in dementia, but memory loss alone doesn’t mean dementia. Dementia implies there are problems with other brain functions as well, and that more than one dementia symptom is present.

Symptoms of dementia can include:

  • Memory loss
  • Language problems
  • Inability to learn or remember new information
  • Difficulty with planning and organizing
  • Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
  • Personality changes
  • Inability to reason
  • Changes in behavior
  • Apathy or loss of interest in activities
  • Paranoia”

In addition, she writes “Alzheimer’s causes brain changes that gradually get worse. Two abnormal structures called plaques and tangles are prime suspects in damaging and killing nerve cells, causing a steady decline in memory and mental function.”

Maybe this information helps you understand the differences.  Really, I just don’t get it.  I have done research on-and-off over the last few years and have decided that the definition does not really matter.  My grandmother has severe memory deficiencies that significantly impair her life – who cares what the specific diagnosis is?

However, in the article Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia are Different, Angela also writes, “You may have heard the saying, “When you’ve met one person with Alzheimer’s, you’ve met one person with Alzheimer’s disease.” In other words, no two persons are similar in how the disease impacts them. This holds true for caregivers as well. If you have seen how Alzheimer’s disease (or related dementia) impacts one caregiver, you have seen how it impacts one caregiver.” This is so true and, to me, is more important than the definitions.   Due to the nature of the disease, no two patients are alike and, therefore, no two caregivers are alike.  However different each person’s experience, all patients and caregivers ride an emotional roller coaster.

One week I will visit and she is in a good mood and the next she has no idea who I am and yells at me to “get out.”  I have learned to deal with these mood swings and am usually ok after a bad visit.  However, for the most part, we have good visits.  She really does not know that I am her granddaughter, but she does know that I am someone who is important to her – not just one of her regular caregivers (not that they are not hugely important as well).  She may not know that I am her granddaughter and I often have to remind her that I am her granddaughter, Nickie (my childhood nickname that I hate), but she usually treats me with the same sentiment that she would if she did know. Although she does not remember me or my husband and kids, I still tell her funny stories about the kids, how they are doing in school, show her pictures of Gunner and videos of Skater Boy riding his skateboard.  I treat her the same now as I always have.

Since my grandmother has a ton of old photographs (I mean some are from the turn-of the-century), we often look at pictures when I visit.  I usually pick about 5-10 and we look at the same pictures over and over for an hour.  Over the past few years, I have come to know many of the faces that I did not know before and am now able to tell her who is in each of the pictures.  When she asks me, “How do you know?” I always respond simply, “Because you told me Grandmom.”

To be honest, I was never especially close to my grandmother.  I spent more time with my Nana (my mom’s mom) growing up and I was especially close to my Nana. But, in the past few years, I have become closer to my grandmother.  So, although her dementia is a curse in many ways, I guess it has also been a gift.

Although I do hope that you never have to deal with the — of Alzheimer’s disease or Dementia, I’m sure many of you have.  How do you deal with the multitude of emotions? Do you have any suggestions for me – I am always open to new ideas!

Again, I did not make anything pretty today (I actually wrote a rather depressing post), but I am trying to focus in the positive aspects of caring for my grandmother and encourage you to do the same.  So, if you cannot make something pretty today, try to focus on the positives in the less-than-perfect aspects of your life.

And – If you like what you are reading on Adding Shimmer to Life, take a minute to subscribe to my blog via email (on the right sidebar) and you will get an email when I post, add a page, or share content just for email subscribers (coming soon). You can also follow me on Facebook and on Pinterest.

♥ TUTORIAL – Ruffle Tote Purse ♥

*using re-purposed fabric*


♥ Dollar Store Basket Shelf

♥ Ritz-Rolo Crackers

♥ Making a Free-Standing Rope Trashcan



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Adding Shimmer to Life: Where it all started

Welcome to Adding Shimmer to Life!

One of my favorite artists, Vincent Van Gogh, once said, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”  This quote is particularly applicable to me today.  I decided a while ago that I wanted to start a blog.  Sharing my projects, new cleaning tricks, life hacks and other cool things I do with someone other than my husband (he tries to act interested, but I know he really is not as excited about my latest sewing project as I am) has become a necessity.  It is also finally time to write about my experience with depression.  Writing is good therapy for me and maybe my story and experiences will help someone else.

For a few months, I have been planning and preparing to start this blog.  My spare time has been spent researching, listing many ideas, and taking pictures of projects, but something continued holding me back.  Have you ever planned, and planned, and planned and then…… nothing?  Well, so have I.  My reluctance stems from many reasons: difficulty learning how to use the Word Press site, confusion about plug-ins, fears of not being good enough (I am a bit of a perfectionist), and hesitancy about putting my life on the internet for anyone and everyone to see and evaluate.  But, for probably the first time in my life, I am going to gather my courage and jump in with both feet and hope for the best.  So, here goes nothing!

Nicole Warren-Missimer of Adding Shimmer to Life

My goal for this first post is two-fold – to give a little background about me – the Reader’s Digest version.  If you continue to read my posts, you will learn much more (probably more than you ever wanted).  Also, I want to give you a reason for reading my blog.  Maybe you will feel solidarity with me as a mom, share in my struggle with depression, or just have a love for creating and making life pretty.

Let’s start with the basics.  I am currently a stay-at-home mom living in good old Berks County, Pennsylvania.  So now you are thinking, “That’s exciting” (especially if you live in Berks County.)  Well, my life is probably not very exciting.  But, it can be and often is at least interesting.

My family starts with my husband (referred to hereafter as Hubby) to whom I have been married for 17 years of marital bliss.  Ha, ha – it has NOT all been bliss.  I can promise you that you will not see the perfect life, marriage, or family here.  I plan to be honest and genuine.  But I do have a wonderful husband who works hard and loves my kids and me.  I did tell him that although I am putting my life out there for the world to see I would not put his out there, too.  So I will leave his bio at that.

I also have two wonderful boys.  Again, ha, ha!  All things aside, they are great kids (although sometimes they drive me crazy!)  My oldest son, Straight Shooter, is 12 years old and just started 6th grade.  In our school district, 6th grade is in an “Intermediate School”, so I have 1 more year until middle school (phew!)  He is super smart, sometimes too smart for his own good (and mine), plays the trumpet, has a great sense of humor and is just the right age to have intelligent conversations.  He is also a trap-shooter. Yes, my kid shoots.  And he is pretty darn good.  He participated in the AIM program this year and won 7 medals!


My younger son, Skater Boy, is 9 and loves to skateboard – as you can see in the name I have given him.  Skateboarding is his life; if the weather is dry and he is allowed, he is out practicing a new trick or just cruising around.  He is the sweetest kid you will ever meet; he even still sits on my lap and cuddles sometimes.  Last night I told him that he is getting too old for climbing into bed with me, but this was only a half-hearted attempt.  Secretly, I want him to stay my sweet little boy forever and will sorely miss these days when they soon end.

Rounding out my household is my 2-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever Gunner (his real name- he doesn’t mind the goings on of his life out on the internet).  Of course, my mom and my husband are my best friends, but Gunner is truly “woman’s best friend”.  We brought him home when he was 8-weeks-old and he has become the true 5th member of our family.  He is such a great dog.  He follows me just about everywhere, is always happy to see me, comforts me when I am sad and listens to all of my problems (he even gives great advice).  Although I always say he is MY DOG, we all love him just as much as he loves us.

My dog Gunner – relaxing the day away on Hubby’s chair

Who can talk about family without mentioning her parents?  As for me, I am very lucky to have 2 wonderful parents.  Even at 40, I still run to Mommy and Daddy when I am in trouble, need advice, or need some good old reassurance.  My mom and dad are both retired and split their time between their house here in Pennsylvania and their beach house in Delaware. My parents have always been supportive and have given me everything I have ever needed (and lots of things I wanted, too).  Eighteen years ago, my sister, and only sibling, was killed in a car accident – the single most horrible experience in all of our lives.  Although my parents have always been an important part of my life, we have changed immensely since and have become even closer since.

So, there it is – the Reader’s Digest version of my life.  I hope you have found something in my story that you can relate and come back to check out more stories and some projects, life hacks, tips & tricks, and anything else I might find interesting to share with you.  While you are here, find out a little bit “About Me” by clicking on the pages on the right.

Don’t forget to make something pretty today!


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Mental Health Category

In this category I will talk about my personal battle with depression and anxiety, my struggle helping to care for my grandmother with dementia, and any other relevant mental health issues. Although I have a personal perspective on mental health issues, since I also have a background in counseling, I have a professional perspective as well.

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