Those of you who follow this blog know how taken I was with the speech given by Dr. Richard Taylor on Alzheimer's from the Inside.  I do a good deal of volunteer work and much of it is with memory care facilities.  I struggle to engage the patients with whom I visit and have written an open letter to Dr. Taylor for advice.  I thought I would share it with our readers.

Dear Dr. Taylor,


I have long admired you from afar and recently had the pleasure of hearing you speak at a foundation benefit.  I found out that I have been mistakenly telling my friends and readers to compile scrapbooks and photo albums and keep them in the rooms of their loved ones who have been diagnosed with dementia.

You told us to help you, and others like you, to cope with the present (not the past) and to always tell you the truth. When you insist that mom is coming to visit, we shouldn’t just “go along” and say how nice that will be. We should say something like, “Dad, you and I have had disagreements about this several times. You believe that mother is alive (and I hope you are right) but I believe she passed away five years ago.  Just in case she doesn’t show up tomorrow, I’ll bring some photos and we can talk about how much we both miss her”. 

I need a little more specific guidance if you will share with me just a bit more wisdom. I volunteer regularly at memory care facilities. I might bake cookies or just visit with patients while I am there. In the past I have met briefly with some attending caregivers to give me a little background about those I will be with.  I have tried to make conversation using information that I have been given. But this is usually about family members and ancient history.   The conversations often hit the wall and I feel as though I have made my new friends uncomfortable and more aware of “forgetting”.

What should I do and say when I am volunteering in these situations? If I were visiting with you now. in five years or  another 10, how would you wish me to interact with you?

With great admiration,
Kathy Harmon
Great Places, Inc.

Okay, I’ll admit it:  I’ve never seen a bedbug.   I couldn’t pick one out in a lineup.  My family used DDT when I was growing up.  It killed everything—it was a “broad spectrum insecticide”—but it was eventually banned as a toxic chemical.  What followed was a variety of pesticides that targeted only certain bugs. 

Bedbugs are remarkably resourceful.  They’re good travelers and can survive for nearly a year without eating.  Following DDT’s demise, new pesticides don’t particularly faze them.  Human blood is their favorite meal.  Pre-dawn is when they like to eat.  Consequently, bedbugs prefer to dine where humans are most likely to be found at that hour:  in bed.   Beds that frequently substitute humans are the most susceptible to infestation.  Guests in some of the world’s finest hotels have brought bedbugs with them, in their clothing, on their person, or in their luggage.  Following check-out, they provide ready transport to other hotels or their own homes.

In the past month, four of my friends have returned from business trips with significant bedbug tracks on their arms or legs.  Bedbug bites are nasty red welts that usually appear in jagged track lines; they itch like crazy, and scratching them can lead to serious infection.  They can be treated effectively with cortisone, ammonia (bug-bite stick applicators) or with oral antihistamines.

Bedbugs are about a quarter-inch long, medium to dark in color. They love to hide in the seams of beds, the lining of suitcases and clothing, which can be washed in a detergent using hot water. 

Here are a couple of tips:  Keep your suitcase off the floor and zipped in your hotel room.  Visibly check for the presence of bed bugs on the mattress.  Take action when you have any suspicion that you may have been bitten. Exterminators are successfully using extreme heat to “fry” the little critters.   Final word:  Be cautious, but know that the current situation is an epidemic.  Do what you can to keep them from spreading.  And don’t be embarrassed if you’re a victim:  You are in very good company.

I’m embarrassed to admit that Baby Boomers, as hard-working as we are, are not adverse to a quick fix.  After all, we’ve spent our youth eating too much junk food, exercising less over time and now we find that we haven’t the energy, time or money for the programs, products, trainers and equipment for a major overhaul.  After all, who invented the concept of “up-sizing” your burger order?   I’ve done Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and Slim Fast.  I have a room crammed with exercise equipment in the basement.  I’ve got scales that measure food portions, books that calculate proteins, carbs, and fats, and a variety of blenders and food processors.  And here I sit at the highest (non-pregnant) weight in my life.  I have Lupus, Fibromyalgia, and chronic digestive problems.  I’ve decided to become proactive.


I was a fat child.  Oh, the family lovingly called it “chubby,” but I had to buy my clothes at Lane Bryant.  I weighed 167 pounds at age 11.  I’ve tried almost every diet with varying degrees of success.  Some of my favorites were the grapefruit, the cabbage soup and the “eat everything you can in one hour” regimen.  As a fat kid sports were never fun--they were work.  The only team I was ever enthusiastically chosen for was called “Pompom Pull Away.”  If you’re unfamiliar with this game, Pompom Pull Away was a quick 15 minute activity often organized at recess when I was a child.  You split the kids into two teams, link arms and then run against each other and try to break through the line.  The team that prevents a breakthrough wins.  I could stop a Mack truck. 


As I read the mounting stories of teenage suicides over bullying, I think back at how cruel pre-pubescent teens were.  Being taunted with names like “Fatso,” “Two-Ton Tilly,” and chased home by boys snorting like pigs leave a lasting impression.  Society doesn’t help.  The worship of pencil-thin bodies and the creation of size zero clothing have been constant reminders that few of us ever measure up to the ideal. 


On the positive side, being an outcast has its benefits.  I developed empathy at an early age.  I had to find a way to make friends.  I wasn’t popular or good-looking.  I discovered that, over time, being kind, understanding and loyal made for lasting friendships--and a great marriage.  I still cannot stay at one weight for more than three hours.  I still eat in all negatively charged situations.  I still feel the need to over-achieve at every task.  And, I still find it hard to take a compliment.


So, why am I telling you all this?  I want to set the stage for an ongoing discussion on KathyChat about living longer and healthier, weight loss, self-esteem and arriving at a good weight and emotional place.  If you feel the need to change, I’ll provide the information to help you make the best decision.  KathyChat is going to be about how you can feel better physically and emotionally.  

You are likely going to live longer than your parents, but what you eat and your level of activity will play as much of a role as medical science and longevity research.  I want to expose weight loss and beauty product scams, share ways to “commit” to a little exercise, give you facts eating habits, talk about products that work and shed light on all the fabulous research that is being done across the globe.   Legitimate studies tell us why we are overweight, what is “normal,” what weight loss methods work for some and not others (and why), how changing habits can improve health, as well as eradicate or reduce symptoms of many illnesses and even reverse aging.  I find watching the Biggest Loser and taking pride in weighing less than 440 pounds doesn’t have an enduring impact.


Stay tuned for our running commentary.  In the hope that we can actually find a “quick fix” we’ll begin tomorrow with an examination of some popular pills and powders on the market and see if they live up to their claims. If you have had a good, bad or indifferent experience with a diet or product, I welcome your feedback.  Send me a quick note at  


  • In the years has been online, we’ve received hundreds of e-mails from visitors asking questions about legal documents, how to start retirement planning in their 50's, as well as advice on traveling with grandpa and the kids and making everyone happy.   We’ve also received personal stories of triumph and tragedy including the creative, often humorous ways people cope with stress, relationships, balancing career and family, 70 hour work weeks, job loss and the "agony and defeat" they encountered starting a new company.   In our newsletter, I periodically share stories about my glorious 86 year old mother and have named a collection after her.  This is YOUR SPACE.  Ask for advice.  Share stories.  I love your e-mails. It's simple.  Just click here!