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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

Bras and Babka

Mom is forgetting how to dress herself. The most difficult item of apparel that she must negotiate is her bra. If you are a woman reading this, you may not be surprised. Bras are sometimes impossible to figure out. We often twist ourselves into knots hooking the bra around our waist, sliding it backwards, hiking it up to the right position, and sticking our arms elbow-first into the thin straps and our breasts into the uncomfortable cups that are meant to support us.

Maybe we should be radical and all go bra-less.

Ok, I know that’s not going to happen. If it were the norm to let our breasts fly (and droop) freely, I wouldn’t be writing this. I don’t think I’d be comfortable without my bra in public. And that’s the real issue. If Mom is still going out, she really must wear a bra under her shirts.

What are the alternatives to a regular hook-in-the-back bra? It turns out there are quite a few: Bras that close in the front with zippers, snaps, large hooks and eyes, and even ties. There are shirts that hug you tightly across the chest, sports bras that are soft and provide support much like a halter top. There’s even something called the BreastNest, “the comfortable bra alternative for large breasts.” I’m optimistic enough to think that these alternatives were created not only to make money, but to bring comfort to women with dementia or with arthritis who loose dexterity. Many of these close-in-the-front bras assist caregivers to help dress their charges.

We’ve identified this problem and we’ve found there is a solution. The next hurdle is to figure out how to shop for these bras. Today, we stopped in a store that had front-closing hook-and-eye bras. We didn’t try them on as I decided that the small mechanism would only frustrate Mom more. We did try on a sports bra with a zipper, but sports bras are built to squish your breasts tightly against your chest and hold them there while you exercise, and that’s not what we want either.

The more practical ones are all sold on-line, but then we cannot involve Mom or have her try on these items. It seems that we’ll have to guess which one might be best for her.

Most of the information I found when searching the internet for alternative bras was on commercial websites marketing their own products. However, there were a few Alzheimer’s websites that described in great detail how to help an Alzheimer’s patient dress with warmth and love. I particularly liked this line from the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK: “It is important to enable a person with dementia to make their own choices for as long as they can and, if they do need assistance, to offer it tactfully and sensitively….If the person is determined to wear a hat in bed or a heavy coat in summer, try to respect their choice, unless it might cause harm.”*

Sometimes Mom is open to our assisting her, and sometimes she thinks we are making her out to be incompetent. Why, she wonders, should we involve ourselves in her private matters? Her anger flares in these moments, anger expressed in an increasingly halting manner as she searches for words that just won’t come.

That’s where we are. We are trying to help Mom dress with dignity, to give her the support (pun unintended) she needs every morning and evening when she must navigate the increasingly stressful dance of dressing and undressing. Today, as I left their apartment, I wrote Mom a note that she could read as many times as necessary. “Dear Mom,” it said, “as of tomorrow, please allow us into your room in the morning to help you get dressed after your shower.” I won’t be there to see if the note has its desired effect. I just pray that together we can help her dress with dignity.

Summer is a great time to make yeast cakes. The hot desert air makes for high-rising desserts in the extra warm kitchen. Here’s a chocolaty babka recipe that will keep you coming back for more.

Chocolate Babka

When I serve this babka, I make sure my daughter is home. She doesn’t like chocolate so there’s always more for me. The crunchy topping and the warm, oozing chocolate make this dessert a winner. This recipe makes three loaves.


4½ tsp yeast

1½ cups warm milk or milk substitute

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup oil

2 large eggs

6 cups flour

1 tsp salt


36 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup sugar

2½ tsp cinnamon

¾ cup oil

Streusel Topping:

1½ cups powdered sugar

1½ cups flour

7 Tbsp oil


Mix dough ingredients and let rise for at least 30 minutes in a warm room. While dough is rising, prepare filling and streusel topping. Retrieve dough, punch down and divide into three equal parts. Roll dough with a rolling pin on a floured surface. Spread as evenly as possible a third of the chocolate mixture on the dough leaving a border near the edges. There is no need to melt the filling beforehand. Brush edges with a little water to make them stick. Roll dough up tightly, jelly roll fashion, pinch edges together to seal, then gently, if you can, twist the roll over itself. Place in loaf pan on baking paper and let rise 30 minutes. Brush loaf with egg and sprinkle with streusel topping. Bake loaves 30 minutes at 350°; rotate pans in oven and bake another 25 minutes.


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