After our beloved member, Brenda, passed away this week, we began the process of mourning her beautiful life. Brenda was devoted to her family. She used her caring people skills to help her clients overcome emotional and psychological roadblocks. At the time of her dementia diagnosis 6 years ago, this amazing woman gradually began to leave us. We sought help from professionals at Jewish Senior Life and the Alzheimer’s Association. We brought Brenda to the Dorothy and Peter Brown Adult Day Program, which allows participants to enjoy the benefits of art, music, cooking, and exercise in a safe and sunny space with the caring people who work there, while giving their caregivers some needed time off. Brenda enjoyed this wonderful program until her heightened anxiety made it difficult for her to participate.

The family researched the disease thoroughly, sought help from professionals, and tried various solutions to keep her calm and safe and entertained. She had visits from art instructors, musicians, and pets through Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy. But as her symptoms continued to worsen, she intermittently lost the ability to recognize her husband and family, we realized that she could not live at home anymore.

Brenda would dash out the front door of the house unexpectedly, often in the middle of the night, searching for her childhood home, or she called 911 to let them know that the man sharing her home with her wasn’t her husband. Officers from the Southfield Police Department were incredibly kind and understanding and took her to the hospital, which she approved. Brenda often called me in the middle of the night and told me how worried and confused she was. We too were worried about her all the time as we witnessed her suffering.

We sought the help of professionals from JSL, The Dorothy and Peter Brown Adult Community Day Program, the Alzheimer’s Association, and Careline Hospice who helped us find various communities of caring staff who could care for her. As Brenda’s anxiety grew, her personality changed and sometimes she became aggressive, as many of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s do. There were multiple trips to the hospital. Eventually, Brenda stopped sleeping at night. She paced the corridors, then was too tired during the day to participate in activities and socialization.

Throughout this nightmare, Brenda’s devoted husband was there at her side. Brenda’s sister, brother, daughter, and son flew in frequently to be with her. We felt she knew we were there, and she was comforted by our presence because she could let go and doze in the chair by our sides.

When Richard and Jenny came to visit her on Monday morning, Brenda’s favorite song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was playing on her radio as she slept.  She suddenly opened her eyes, saw her loved ones, then closed her eyes and took her last breath. We were not ready to say farewell. But you never are.  What we have left are the memories of a wise and beautiful, happy, bright, fun-loving, positive, song-singing, and delightfully silly Bren that we all loved so much.

In many ways, dementia is harder on loved ones than on the patient suffering from it.  If you research the disease online you will see many sad and uplifting stories from all over the world. Here is one daughter’s story written by Anthea Rowan, a British journalist, based in Tanzania, and published in Psychology Today.

Alzheimer’s is a universal problem; and it’s the human condition. When you meet people with dementia with their loved ones, give them your love and support. We’re all in this together.

May Brenda’s memory be a blessing.

If you need help locally and seek information about Alzheimer’s Disease, or how you or a loved one can learn 10 healthy habits for your brain and ways you can reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia follow this link: or call their 24/7 hotline: 800.272.3900

Shabbat Shalom.

1 Comment:

  • Susan Lewis /

    Such a sad story but I am so grateful the Brown Center was there for her !

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