Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Choose Your Battles

In Missouri, 2017 should be put on the calendar as the year of the Japanese beetles. Sure, we had some last year and they were a nuisance, but this year they are a plague of biblical proportions.

These voracious bugs started on our grapevine—just like last year—then they moved on to the wild roses, blackberry bush, returned to destroy the apple tree and all the apples on it, attacked the yard trees making them look like autumn instead of summer.

It’s a dilemma how to battle beetles. The traps attract more, and it certainly was tedious to pick them off and throw them in soapy water. That might work if you had a scattering of beetles, but when they congregate in huge clusters and there are thousands of them, picking seems like an exercise in futility.

So we sprayed a little Seven on them, but mostly we hoped they would move along like they did last year. But oh, no! They were way cockier than last year. One morning while relaxing with my cup of coffee on the deck, I was horrified to see our rose of Sharon bush covered with the foliage eating monsters. “Okay, they have gone too far!” I told Harold.

I used the remainder of the spray he had mixed, and although it killed hundreds, it seemed that a legion was moving along the front line of the battle to kill the bush. Harold got serious and bombarded the tree with spray. That seemed to do the trick. We had chosen our battle and although they haven’t left entirely, the remaining beetles lost interest in the bush.

As a person who is often out of sync with the opinions of those who surround me, I’ve found that choosing battles has become more important than ever. It isn’t always easy for an outspoken, opinionated woman to do that, especially when so many have lost their sense of civility and respect for their fellow humans.

Choosing battles became an integral part of caregiving. When Jim was in long-term care, I could count some residents’ family members charging into the memory unit just spoiling for battle. Nothing was ever done to their satisfaction. Complain, complain, complain. I might mention that the biggest complainers were the ones who seldom visited their family member. Too often, it seemed that since they felt guilty, they wanted to belittle the aides and nurses that tended to the residents.

These were the same people who saw me feeding, bathing, or providing extra care for Jim who would say, “You shouldn’t be doing that! You are paying to have that done.” In the first place (a) it really wasn’t any of their concern what I wanted to do for my husband, and (b) I saw how overworked and unappreciated the aides were.

There were two kinds of aides: the ones that needed a job so desperately they were willing to try anything, and the majority who had a caring nature and whose job was less of a job and more a “calling.” The people who stayed were not working solely for a paycheck.

Abuse and neglect of  your loved one should not be tolerated. Show up for care planning and provide helpful input. Rather than ranting at the unfortunate person who happens to be nearby, rational conversation with the person in charge is much more effective.

In life, we need to choose our battles. Instead of waging war against fellow human beings, negotiation may be the key to settling problems.

On the other hand, an all-out battle against Japanese beetles is not only totally acceptable, it may be the only way to save your yard.

Copyright © July 2017 by L.S. Fisher
http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Company Comin'

My dog goes crazy every time the doorbell rings. She runs through the house trying to get to the front door ahead of us. We have to hang onto her squirmy, wiggly body to keep her from running out the door in her over-excited state. I think she’s always hopeful that the grandkids are at the door, but she’s ecstatic to see the UPS man too.

A few days ago, I took the dog for a walk. We went out the back door, but after walking in the oppressive heat, I decided that we would just use the front door since it was closer. Of course, the front door was locked, and I rang the doorbell so that Harold would let us in.

As soon as I pressed the doorbell, the dog began her happy dance and looked eagerly at the door. When Harold came to the door, she shot through the door running amok in her eagerness. I’m pretty sure, she was wondering who the “company” was, never once realizing it was us.  

When I was a kid, I remember a song “Company Comin’ up the Road.” We lived twenty miles from nowhere deep in the Ozark hills, and company was a rare occasion.

Later, when I became a part of the Fisher family, it was a completely different situation. It was not unusual to have several different families converge on my in-laws’ house. Virginia was an amazing cook, and she could whip up a big meal on a moment’s notice. She always welcomed family and insisted they sit down at her table to eat the mouth-watering meal she prepared “such as it is.”

Family time wasn’t limited to weekends and holidays. Any night of the week might involve a spirited card game, a jam session, or coffee and conversation. Company comin’ was expected and an occasion to rejoice.

Times have changed, and so many of the family are gone now. Recently, Virginia’s baby brother Larry passed away, so one less smiling face will be at the reunion this year.

We lived next door to my in-laws for several years. I always enjoyed the company, but being a person who has to have quiet time, I would sometimes slip away for an hour or so and go to my house. Most people didn’t pay any attention to my comings and goings, but Larry would always smile and say, “You just had to get away for a while, didn’t you?” It was as if he was the one person who understood.

Another time after Jim developed dementia, Larry watched the interactions between Jim and me. “It must be awful hard thinking for two,” he said, having another insightful moment.

Life has gone full circle. Although, we don’t live twenty miles from nowhere, we don’t have a lot of company. Sometimes, the dog hears company comin’ up the driveway, but usually she doesn’t get too excited until the doorbell rings. Today, when she beat a well-worn path to the door, she was dancing with delight as she greeted the grandkids.

After playtime, she was exhausted and ready for a nap. After my busy, busy day, I’m ready for a nap too.

Copyright © July 2017 by L.S. Fisher

Friday, June 23, 2017

We Are Not Alone

When I walk my dog late at night, I always look at the sky. I’ve seen several mysterious lights. Some of them suddenly zoom across the sky, others disappear. What are those strange flying objects? Okay, a disclaimer—I do live close to Whiteman Air Force Base, and they do have some planes that look like they belong in a sci-fi movie.

According to an article I read in the newspaper recently, NASA is on a planet hunting mission. They have determined that ten new planets exist that have the potential to support life. They are in a galaxy far, far away, but the possibility exists that beings may be trying to contact us.

How many people believe our planet has been visited by “men in black” is somewhere between 25% and 45%, depending on the source. So, if you’ve seen something inexplicable, you are not alone.

Other than visitors from other worlds, we may sometimes feel alone. It seems we can live “down the road” from a close relative and seldom see them. We live in a world where many of us do not know our neighbors. We tend to go about our business and mind our own business.

When I was growing up, it would have seemed sci-fi to believe that someday we the entire world would be a few keystrokes away. Who could have foreseen twenty-four hour TV, or so many channels that we never watch them all?

Still, in the world of connectivity, some of us feel alone. I believe many Alzheimer’s caregivers feel the loneliest of all. In fact, caregivers may feel like their world has turned upside down, and they have landed in a strange and foreign land.

We each have our own road to travel; our own frontiers to conquer. We never know how strong we can be until we face an unconquerable challenge. For me, that challenge was Jim’s dementia. For others it may be cancer, or heart disease, or the sudden death of a loved one. We never know what the next day, or for that matter, the next hour, will bring.

Earth is our home for a certain time. We have only a finite number of years to gaze at the stars, fall in love, have children, and visit with our loved ones who may live down the road or across country. We have things to do—so many things to do—and a short time to do them.

When I walk the dog and look at the heavens, sometimes I feel a chill, or an unexplainable ache. I see many things at night, and sometimes during the day.

One day earlier this week while the dog and I were meandering across the backyard, I looked up at a blue sky with a few scattered fluffy clouds. I saw a strange, rectangular white object passing rapidly by.

“Do you see that?” I yelled at Harold. Of course, he didn’t hear me. Just as I marveled at that object, I saw another. In a few minutes, they were gone.

I told Harold what I’d seen, and he said, “Probably a weather balloon.” Just like my dad, he thinks every strange flying object is a weather balloon.

“What I saw was flat. Didn’t look like any kind of balloon.”

Oh, well, there’s no way of really knowing what the strange flying objects were. They could have been something from Whiteman AFB, a runaway pair of drones, sheets off a line that decided to go for a thrill ride, or maybe a deflated weather balloon.

Since the objects were unknown, I like to think they might have been a couple of angels making their way toward the heavens. Maybe, I was the only one looking up during that brief moment of visibility. At least there were two of them, so neither was traveling alone.

Copyright © June 2017 by L.S. Fisher
http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

Friday, June 16, 2017

Silence, Please

My granddaughter was in a production of Dancing to Never Land, and I drove to Jefferson City to watch. As we were waiting for the program to begin, I remembered to silence my phone. While we patiently waited for her part, I took photos with my spanking new camera to make sure I could get quality photos.

An hour-and-a half into the program, my phone began to play a happy tune. What? How could that be? Of course, it didn’t play its tune during a set change or when the music was loud—oh, no, it was during a quiet time. Then, it dawned on me—it was my sunset alarm. Since we’ve been closing the blinds in the evenings, I don’t have my bird’s eye view of the setting sun, so I set an alarm to remind me to look. Turning off the ringer and media sound does not silence the alarm.

Last Sunday I heard a phone ringing during the pastor’s message. It rang, and rang, and rang. I don’t know if the person was deaf, ignoring the ring, or not wanting to call attention to himself by pulling out the phone.

Maybe they thought it was someone else’s phone. That happened to me once many years ago during an Alzheimer’s Board Meeting with my first cell phone. I could hear a phone ringing and thought, “How rude!” Except, when I reached my car I saw I had missed several phone calls. My son wanted me to know that we were under a tornado warning. He didn’t know I was in a different town at a meeting.

Then, there’s always the talker that won’t stop when a prayer begins. They are way too involved in a conversation to notice everyone has fallen into silence. How annoying that all you can hear is their conversation instead of the prayer.

When some people are alone, they have to fill their home with noise—the TV, radio, or some other racket—but I always loved the quiet. I’ve never found anything more soothing than the sound of silence, or the quiet sounds of a country night.

I’m not the only one who reveres silence. Others have provided poetic and practical observations about silence:  silence is golden, listen to silence—it has much to say, speak only if it improves the silence, silence speaks louder than words, silence says it all…

I saw a TED talk on noise. Julian Treasure said that most noise in our lives is accidental and unpleasant. Noise affects us physiologically, psychologically, cognitively, and behaviorally.
Silence or soothing noises can improve productivity and improve mood.

After leaving a party where dozens of conversations are going at once, walking out of a noisy restaurant, or shutting off a too-loud TV, I retreat into my favorite environment of stillness and relaxation. My mind thinks, “What a relief!” I’m in my element when all I can hear are the blessed sounds of silence.

Copyright © June 2017 by L.S. Fisher


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Go Purple in June

I was at the grocery store a few days ago and the woman at the checkout asked me if I liked purple. Now, how did she know that? Well, let’s see—purple Alzheimer’s shirt, purple bracelet, purple nails, purple shoes, purple purse…

“Yes, I do,” I said. “Purple is the Alzheimer’s color and I plan to wear purple every day in June for Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.”

Tuesday was a complete Go Purple day for me. Not only did I wear purple, I spent the day with Paige from the Greater Missouri Chapter on Alzheimer’s related activities. First, we taped shows on two different radio stations, we contacted several businesses about teams and corporate sponsors, and we found a venue for an August program and care consultation. The day went really well and I found the enthusiasm and support to be a refreshing change.

The Alzheimer’s Association has a one-day event called the Longest Day. Of course, the longest day of the year is in June and this year, the fundraiser is celebrated on June 21. The Longest Day is about love for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease. People do an activity they love—playing games, exercising, sports, hobbies—and while they enjoy their activity, they raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Longest Day is a perfect fit for the Alzheimer’s Association. Caregivers can attest to the intensity and length of each caregiving day. The most well-known family guide about Alzheimer’s and related dementia caregiving is called the 36-Hour Day for a reason. Any Alzheimer’s caregiver can tell you why.

By June, I’m always working on the Alzheimer’s Walk and have never fully participated in a Longest Day team. I believe this would be a great opportunity for someone who isn’t involved in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s , but wants to help support the Alzheimer’s programs.

Of course, I’d encourage everyone to participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. We are always pleasantly surprised to see people we weren’t expecting show up on walk day.

Our walk committee has been small for several years. The same core group has faithfully taken on the task of making the walk a well-attended community event. As it gets closer to walk time, we hope to grow our committee. Many hands make light work. We’ve always been fortunate to have event day volunteers, but fresh ideas and new perspectives are always welcome. We want our walk to be better each year!

I hope you get a chance to participate in the Longest Day or a Walk to End Alzheimer’s no matter where you live. You can go to act.alz.org to find information about the Longest Day and/or find a walk near you. You can help in many ways—you can volunteer for the committee, start a team, join a team, support a team, or show up on walk day, make a donation, and enjoy.

In the meantime, remember to Go Purple! When someone asks you if you like the color purple, it is your opening to create awareness for the five million in the United States who have Alzheimer’s and the fifteen million family caregivers.

Copyright © June 2017 by L.S. Fisher

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Decoration Day


In case I’d forgotten this was Memorial Day weekend, I was reminded by the bumper-to-bumper traffic in town yesterday. Our town sets between Kansas City and the Lake of the Ozarks so every summer weekend we are in the cross-hairs of tourists. Memorial Day and Labor Day turn Limit and Broadway into parking lots.

I don’t suppose most of those people are headed to cemeteries to decorate graves of loved ones. Decoration Day was established to honor Americans who died in wars, but has evolved into a weekend of fun in the sun and store-wide “Memorial Day Sales!” Yep. The way to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice is to celebrate and buy bargains. Memorial Day is most definitely a red-white-and-blue day right down to sales ads for clothing, hardware, lawn furniture, and every other consumerist purchase possible.

I remember when as a working person, Memorial Day was the first official holiday of the year. I admit that after our annual run to place flowers on the graves of loved ones, we spent the rest of the weekend pursuing some sort of fun activity.

Now, the highlight of Memorial Day is to attend the ceremony at the Veterans Cemetery in Higginsville and place flowers for Jim in front of the columbarium. Many of the graves at the cemetery hold the bodies or ashes of those who died fighting for this country. Others, like Jim, didn’t die in the war, but as one veteran said at a Vietnam program, “I died in Vietnam; I just didn’t know it.”

That’s what happened to Jim. Taking human life stole part of his soul and left it lying in the jungle beside the fallen. His life was never the same after he saw the lifeless bodies taken down by his M16. Jim had PTSD before we knew it even existed. When dementia faded his short-term memories, Vietnam clamored to the forefront of his mind.

Did you know that 3:00 p.m. local time is set aside on Memorial Day as a national moment of remembrance? At the appointed time on Monday, pause, remove your ball cap, and bow your head for the 1.1 million American soldiers who have died for this country.

Maybe a fun-filled weekend is the way to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep this country free. It’s a time to think about what is right about our country instead of what is wrong. This patriotic weekend is a time of remembrance. The most important thing we should remember is that our freedom wasn’t free.  

Copyright © May 2017 by L.S. Fisher

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Benefit of Laughter

Linda at Roast
The 2017 Greater Missouri Alzheimer’s Association’s roast was a roaring success. I can’t help but think a person must be quite comfortable in his skin to allow a group of people to “roast” him. Or as the emcee, Bob Pugh put it, “sear him” on first one side, then the other, before roasting him to well done.

I was assigned a seat at the “Hawk” table along with my new friend, Kathleen. We were glad to see each other since we were the first two at the table, and both of us wondered if we’d be seated by anyone.

“Are you a Hawk?” she asked me.

“No,” I admitted.

We wondered what a “Hawk” was. “Well, if they don’t show up, we can eat their desserts,” she said. We were joined by a charming gentleman who said he was not a Hawk, but eventually, the Hawks joined us—a husband and wife team. Everyone else at the table personally knew the roastee, Mark Fenner, CEO of MFA Oil, which made the experience even better for me.

Mark and the roasters looked quite dashing in their purple tuxedos. The evening was filled with good-natured ribbing, including Mark teasing a donor for selling a $10 million business, but donating “only” $25,000. The roast was topped off with a guitar and a sing-a-long.

Laughter as a benefit correlates to the benefits of laughter. I can’t think of many people who need laughter more than caregivers. The health benefits of a good chuckle cannot be taken lightly. According to Mayo, laughter is the ideal stress buster.

A good laugh can:

·         Lightens your load mentally. Laughter relaxes you, and reduces your stress hormone levels, and releases neuropeptides to fight stress.
·         Eases physical pain. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, nature’s feel good chemical.
·         Improves cardiac health. The American Heart Association believes humor can help your heart by reducing artery inflammation and increasing HDL cholesterol. We have good and bad cholesterol. The easy way to remember which is which is “H”DL is the “happy” cholesterol and “L”DL is the “lousy” cholesterol.  

Laughter is good for body and spirit. It gives you short-term and long-term benefits. Having a good laugh every twenty-four hours is just what the doctor ordered!

I easily stored up a week’s worth of laughter at the roast. It was good to spend an evening with long-term friends I’ve met over the years, and with new friends I met for the first time at the roast.

I can’t think of a better fundraiser than one that is fun. Beneath the laughter was the serious business of raising money to provide our chapter’s outreach and to laugh our way to a world without Alzheimer’s.

Copyright © May 2017 by L.S. Fisher

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Trip You Don’t Want to Take

I was carrying my Mother’s day potted dahlia up the deck steps when I tripped on the steps and fell. I smacked my elbow, knee, and scraped my foot.

It was a little shocking to find myself down, but I dusted myself off, moved my limbs without pain. It seemed the only visible damage was a toenail torn halfway off. I was luckier than my sister-in-law who had fallen over the weekend and fractured her hip.

Unfortunately, I had landed on the plant, crushing the plastic pot and breaking off a few of the flowers. We re-potted the plant, and I believe it, too, will recover.

These two falls made me think of all the times Jim fell. As I worked on his memoir Indelible, it became apparent to me that he had fallen more times than I remembered. None of Jim’s falls resulted in broken bones, but he often had bruises, swelling, and cuts that had to be stitched.

Jim’s main problem seemed to be balance. After several falls, he eventually used a merry-walker, a device that looks much like a baby walker for adults. He even managed to flip the merry-walker from time-to-time and the nursing home weighted it down. At one time, he was falling out of bed, so they placed it on the floor.

Up until the last several months of Jim’s life, I was able to take him for walks. I held onto him, and he seemed to do pretty well. Once he began to tilt his head back most of the time, I had more problems keeping him balanced. Eventually, our “walks” involved pushing a wheelchair around the parking lot.

A myriad of problems associated with dementia can increase the risk of falling. Dementia causes problems with balance and gait, confusion, vision and perception, and, of course, the ever present medication.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), nearly 32,000 people died from unintentional falls in 2014. Injuries from falls are the most common accidental death for older adults.

Six out of every ten falls happen at home. NIH (National Institutes of Health) has some suggestions to make our homes safer while we go about our daily activities. Slick floors and poorly lit stairways are two examples of hazards.

NIH lists these factors that can lead to falls: (1) loose rugs, (2) clutter on the floor or stairs, (3) carrying heavy or bulky things up and down stairs, (4) not having stair railings, and (5) not having grab bars in the bathroom.

If you want a to-do list:

·         Remove safety hazards. It is easy to trip over electrical cords, clutter, dog dishes, or small furniture. One time as I was knocking down cobwebs, I tripped over a footstool.
·         Improve lighting. Make sure bulbs are bright enough that you can see where you are going. Have a lamp at your bedside, night-lights throughout your home, and keep a flashlight handy.
·         Install handrails and grab bars. Stairs and bathtubs are prime spots for accidents. Having something to hang onto reduces the risk.
·         Move items to make them easier to reach. As a short person, I applaud this idea. Almost everything is out of my reach!

Having a recent fall makes me more aware of the danger. I had a really bad fall on ice one time and my first thought was that I was going to die, my second thought was that I had “broken” my head. Ice is another story for different season. For now, let’s work on those indoor hazards that might catch us unaware.

Copyright © May 2017 by L.S. Fisher
http://earlyonset.blogspot.com