Trials, Comments & Quotes

“Life in The US MILITARY” Book: Trials, Comments & Quotes

In trials, Veterans with varying degrees of Alzheimer's and other dementias responded in a positive manner to the 'Life in The US Military' book including sharing reminiscences with their caregivers and in several cases bringing family members to joyful tears. This book is an easy and effective daily activity, yet is so simple in concept.

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VETERANS REMINISCENCE GROUP TRIALS

“When I first decided to use Dan Koffman’s Life in the US Military Images for Reflection and Reminiscence in my Veterans Reminiscence Group, I had no idea that I was about to be surrounded by strong and positive emotions.  These emotions came from Veterans who are experiencing memory changes, their caregivers, and me.

One former Navy man was delighted with the picture of the buzz cut.  He kept running his hand over the picture. When asked why, he ran his hand over his own buzz cut and smiled delightedly.  This was the first smile from him in three months.  Another Veteran, this one from the Army, was entranced by the book itself.  There was an immediate connection between the book and this Veteran.  Every page was carefully touched. Objects were outlined by his fingers. Every page was looked at. He shared his thoughts about the book with his friend from the VFW who had given him a ride to the session.  Yet another Veteran smiled and nodded at every page and spoke softly in response to his nephew’s questions about certain objects. 

The caregivers were clearly touched by their loved ones’ responses to the book.  One wife spent the entire support group in tears because her husband was talking to her and explaining the pictures.  At the end of the session she confided in me that it was good to see him animated again and said “I could see the young soldier who swept me off my feet”.  The most dramatic caregiver reaction came from a daughter in the support group.  Here is her story in her own words: “I grew up listening to Dad’s war stories. Honestly, I was SO tired of hearing them. When his mind went, he stopped repeating them.  I never knew how much I would miss those old stories. This afternoon when he got to the page with the jeep on it he turned to me and started telling me the story about when he got a “borrowed” jeep stuck in the mud about a mile from camp.  It wasn’t the whole story but he was telling it for the first time in months. I can’t believe I did this but I even helped him tell the story today.”

This book is not just for Veterans. It is for families too. My father suffered with dementia for 10 years.  Upon reviewing the book I was able to remember my father for the soldier that he was in his heart. Each page was a reminder of a father who was proud of his service, smug about his survival of the war, and stamped deep into his soul with patriotism.  His dementia robbed him of his ability to articulate his thoughts and his stories but it did not rob him of his military bearing or his pride.  He wore his uniform in a Memorial Day parade just months before he died. And that uniform fit! This book brought back to me all that my father was and although those memories made me cry they were tears of remembrance rather than tears of loss.  

Thank you, Mr. Koffman, for reminding us that old soldiers never die . . .”

Nina Tumosa, Professor of Internal Medicine/Geriatrics, Saint Louis University
Veterans Reminiscence Group Trials, Saint Louis, Missouri

PICTURE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

"When I used the Life in The US MILITARY book with memory loss patients who are Military Veterans, it created a domino effect of exciting, unpredictable diverse communication which anticipates wonder and experiential education.  Every home or facility housing these so very special people – aging seniors - Veterans with Memory Loss -  should be equipped with Dan Koffman’s books (Simple Pleasures for Special Seniors). These pictorial provisions evoke response from deep personal experience – DON’T CAREGIVE WITHOUT THEM! Thank you for your very significant pursuit of addressing such a great need in the 'caregiver-senior with dementia world' with the gift of a thousand words."
               David Johnson, Professional Giver of Care to Seniors with Memory Loss
Merrill Gardens - Stanwood,Washington

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OLD SOLDIERS NEVER DIE . . .

“Those of you who are familiar with World War II, Korean, and Vietnam Era Veterans know that the war was the defining experience of their lives. They were young and idealistic when they entered into the war and their service there shaped who they became for the rest of their lives. Now, more than 40-65 years later, these Veterans remain proud of the sacrifices and accomplishments they made during their service to their country. This is true even for those Veterans who have started to experience memory loss. Even those Veterans who have slipped into silence brought on by the confusion of lost memories can still be recognized by the glint in their eye, the wicked chuckle, the obvious straightening of the body, or the quick glance to make sure their shoes are polished whenever they are addressed as ‘Sir’.  The warrior may be on furlough but he is not gone.

The good news is that this deep-rooted self-identity provides family members, caregivers, and healthcare workers a direct line into the heart and soul of the aging warrior who is suffering from memory loss.  Communication is a key component for maintaining social ties with family members.  Good communication is especially critical to ensure that the Veteran has input into his or her healthcare decisions. This is crucial to maintaining the Veteran’s sense of self-control. When memory fades, so does normal communication. Veterans with memory loss become frustrated and confused. Often they suffer in silence, not knowing how to reach out to others.  As a result, family members become exasperated and resentful, thinking that they have been deliberately excluded. Often they turn to the healthcare providers for help. Those providers, when expected to break down months of isolation in a brief 20-minute visit, become irritated and dismissive when they cannot do so.  When communication breaks down, all parties become isolated. No one has control and no one can take control. Everyone suffers.

All parties become the victims of poor communication brought on by memory loss of a loved one. Personal memory loss is devastating. Watching someone you love suffer from memory loss is equally as dreadful.  Friends and family members suffer alongside their affected loved ones.  And often they, too, suffer in silence.

This silence must be broken. For communication to be improved, it becomes a priority for us to clarify thoughts and feelings about how to communicate and about what to communicate. Thought must be given to the goals of communication with a Veteran with memory loss. Tools must be created to break down the communication barriers that arose as a result of that memory loss.

To begin this process, think about what you miss most. Chances are that some of the memories you have of your loved one involve wartime stories. Do you want to see, even one more time, the jaunty sailor who swept your mother off her feet, or the proud soldier who bought his family a home with proceeds from the GI Bill, or the daring pilot who bought a small plane so he could cover hundreds of miles in his new post-war job of game warden or the dedicated WAC who opened her own small business to support a family that she and her now deceased husband had started in the optimism of the post war boom?  Would you want to have Aladdin’s Lamp to give you one more chance to hear that off-key rendition of “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”? Do you miss that special story and do you want to hear it again?

For those of you who answered yes, then Aladdin’s Lamp can grant your wish in the form of a book.  Dan Koffman’s Life in the US Military Images for Reflection and Reminiscence is a simple book. It offers simple solutions to the communication quandary. And it is simply wonderful.   

Mr. Koffman has handed us a true gift of time disguised as a book. With his book we can reverse the silence that has started to descend into our interactions with our Veterans as a result of their memory losses. This book does not create new memories; instead it unlocks the old ones. It contains simple pictures that can evoke deep memories and emotions. Pictures of boots, buzz cuts, and barracks represent simple ideas but evoke powerful emotions. They give us an opportunity to engage in conversations, ask questions, and to reminisce.  Be prepared to sit back and marvel at the sound of a long-absent voice chuckling over pup tents, backpacks and ‘borrowed’ jeeps; rejoice in the return of that wicked gleam in the eye; and rue the day you once were foolish enough to have said ‘If I have to listen to that story one more time I will scream’.  Who knew how we would come to miss those hilarious war stories about lost equipment, hidden stashes of booze, foxholes lined with pine boughs, fines because of missed haircuts, and month-long poker games won by a poker face rather than good cards?  And now there is a possibility of having some of that back again, perhaps not with the full power of the past, but certainly with the gentle healing power of an echo, sent back to remind us of what once was there.

Although we didn’t know it until they were gone, these stories and experiences defined our parents, siblings, spouses, relatives and friends.  It gave them context and it reminded them, and now us, that these Veterans were just men and women who were trying to get by and just do their jobs. They were ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events.  These stories are tales of ordinariness forged in unordinary times. The Veterans survived those times and were able to make sense of them through their memories and their stories.  Who knew that we, their family and friends, would have some hope of hearing pieces of those memories again through the gift of simple pictures, pictures that we recognize as iconic but that we had not realized were actually part of our souls as well?

By addressing the Veteran who lives deep in the core that defines our loved one, this book offers us an opportunity to glimpse that past life, those defining moments, and those wonderful memories. We now have a key to better communication to the life of one we feared was lost forever.

This book reminds us that, while old soldiers never die, they can fade away. Give yourself a gift that will delay that fading of your Veteran.”

Nina Tumosa, Professor of Internal Medicine/Geriatrics at Saint Louis University,
Co-Director of the Gateway Geriatric Education Center
Editor of Aging Successfully - Saint Louis, Missouri

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OPENING LINES OF COMMUNICATION FOR VETERANS WITH MEMORY LOSS! 

“For many military veterans, memories of friendship and cherished experiences lie just below the surface, the right trigger can easily bring them bubbling to the surface for reflection and enjoyment. For those with memory loss this becomes so much more important, to distract them from their inability to adjust to current events. However finding the precise trigger in today's fast paced world is not always easy.

That is, until now! A new book by Dan Koffman called Life in The US MILITARY (from his successful series, Simple Pleasures for Special Seniors) has been designed specifically for veterans of all branches of the military who suffer from memory loss. The book contains images designed and tested to spark quiet reflection and stimulate shared reminiscences between the veteran, caregiver's, old friends and family members.

Dan has filtered the broad palette of military experiences in visual images, to attain the most basic, versatile and pertinent metaphors for service life; yet with no martial focus. The Images remind me of camaraderie rather than bloodshed. There’s even a classic Bob Hope USO Show and a Norman Rockwell Image included, both used by permission.

The Life in The US MILITARY book can be used with Veterans with dementia at any stage depending upon how the concept of the book is presented. For example, I showed it to a gentleman with the early stages of Alzheimer’s and we spent about 10 minutes talking about the subjects represented in the book, not so much the individual scenes but the extended concepts. This led him to bring me his old WW2 photo albums for more specific stories and even longer extended memories.

The ‘boot’ picture reminded him that when he went through Basic Training they ran out of boots to issue and he had to go through basic in his dress shoes. It was quite an amusing memory and a great story. But it was the patriotic images in the book that stirred his memory the most; He stated, ‘It was a different time then, when we all worked together’.
 
A veteran with more advanced disease could draw more from the individual images, building historical or fantasy tales visualized from bits of long term memory they bring to the surface.
 
The images are from a variety of situations including WW2, Korea and Vietnam era, yet none are truly combat related.

I see this publication as an excellent memory jogger with the potential to provide hours of enjoyment to victim's of dementia and their families, and I like the fact that this book is easy enough for a young grandchild to use successfully to open the lines of communication with their grandfather or grandmother.

I am both pleased and impressed with the quality of Dan’s work.
 
Finally as a dementia educator to professionals I can see the potential value in the use of Dan Koffman’s Life in The US MILITARY book.”

Roger N. Holbrook, LPN, Administrator - Josephine Suites, Stanwood, Washington,
Nurse of 35 years, Served 20 years in the US Military
and Former Alzheimer’s Association Education Specialist

VFW JOINS THE BATTLE AGAINST VETERANS MEMORY LOSS

"We have reviewed Dan Koffman's Life in The US MILITARY book for Veterans with Memory Loss and find that it really hits the bullseye.  Our VFW Post (1561) in Arlington, Washington has purchased several copies to have on hand to be able to loan them out to families caring for our fellow Veterans suffering from Memory Loss. Our primary mission is to help fellow Veterans in need. I believe that if we can help a Veteran with Memory Loss reconnect and communicate to their families once again, even for a short time, then, we are staying on mission. With over 600,000 Veterans with Memory Loss, I hope that other VFW and American Legion Posts will seriously consider doing what we have done to make life a little bit brighter for our fellow Veterans with Memory Loss and have several copies of Dan's Life in The US MILITARY on hand to share when needed. Fellow Commanders, feel free to contact me directly if you want to talk more about why we think this is a worthwhile effort."

Bill Morse, Commander, VFW Post 1561, Arlington, Washington (e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

AMERICAN LEGION ATTACKS VETERANS MEMORY LOSS

"At our last American Legion meeting, Dan Koffman presented his new book Life in The US MILITARY designed for Veterans with Memory Loss. Our group liked it very much and responded by purchasing several copies for Veteran friends and family as well as purchasing a copy to have here at the Post to be able to loan out to families caring for a Veteran family member who has Memory Loss. I strongly encourage other American Legion Posts to do the same thing to share when needed. If any Commanders would like to talk to me about why we think this is a good thing, please call me.”

Jerry Perdum, Commander, American Legion Post 207, Camano Island, Washington (phone: 360.387.9472)

*For more QUOTES FROM SPECIAL SENIORS, please visit www.SimplePleasuresBooks.com