Friday, July 31, 2020

A Cup of Coffee and a Chill Pill


Today was one of those days when I felt overwhelmed and the walls were closing in on me. It was raining and my mood was stormier than the clouds rolling in.

Rain, itself, is a double-edged sword. The soybeans planted in the fields by the house are happy and growing nicely. The rain makes the grass look a lovely shade of green, but it needs to be mowed, and it’s too wet to mow. Lately, it’s either too wet or too hot to work outside. A few days ago, I trimmed the hedges and some of the more offensive grass near the house, and nearly had heat stroke.

Guess that leaves the endless inside work. I always need to decide whether to do housework or computer work. They both seem to have no beginning and no end. The to-do list never turns to a “done” list. I just keep moving the unfinished projects forward to the next list.

This week I planned to watch the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on research. I never realized how many sessions, chats, posters, etc. that would be available. I thought the AAIC conference would be good preparation for the Alzheimer’s research Peer Review program that will be starting soon. There’s that double-edged sword again. If spend the time to watch a week’s worth of AAIC videos, I won’t finish other projects to clear the way for the Peer Review program.

It rained yesterday, but mentally, I felt good. I had crossed several things off my to-do list and the 2020 blog book, Love Is Action, was being reviewed. My smugness didn’t last long—the book was kicked back for cover size. We went to work on uploading a new cover, but it was looking weirder and weirder. Finally, my husband used his old pc to print the pdf, and we were in business.

Until this morning when we flunked review again. So that item flew back onto my figurative plate. To make matters worse, I accidentally sent it back for review before we made the correction. I called to see if we could cancel the review and found out that an automatic review cannot be stopped. It’s going to be another 72 hours before I can fix that one.

During my meltdown this morning, my husband told me that I needed to prioritize and finish the most important projects first. That’s good advice except when I think I’ve finished a project and try to move on, but have to erase the checkmark next to the most time consuming item on the list—“Work on Blog Book.”


It’s hard to complete projects when I can’t work without interruption. Every time I sit in front of the PC to work, my dog takes that as a signal that I can either (a) play with her, or (b) take her outside. She doesn’t like to take no for an answer. The phone rings—telemarketer again, and again. My email dings, a text comes in, the dryer buzzes, or the oven timer goes off.

On rainy days, my body aches, my hands hurt when I type, and my attention span wanes when I get tired. My mind flits here, there, and everywhere as I attempt to prioritize more and multitask less. In the meantime, I might as well have a cup of coffee and take a chill pill and listen to the rain splash against the window.

Copyright © July 2020 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Jim’s Team—Walk Like it’s 1998


Those of us who plan for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s year after year were worried this year. We thought that like so many other events, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s would be cancelled.

When all the creative minds were through mulling over how we could move forward, a plan was in place—the walk would continue, but it would be everywhere. As soon as we heard the idea, we embraced it.

The Sedalia Walk will proceed as planned on September 12, but instead of everyone gathering in one place, people will walk in smaller groups with family members or teams. They will walk in their neighborhoods, in their yards, on hiking trails, in parks. Instead of being in one place and just seeing each other, we will be visible to our neighbors, or people who pass by in cars—Honk if you support Alzheimer’s research. With the wonders of the Internet and the ever present cell phones, we will still be connected.

I feel like this is our opportunity to move forward while taking a step back. The first time I walked was in 1998 and the Sedalia Walk had a total of six adults and a dog. Jim and I were the only local people in the walk. Two of the women were from the Alzheimer’s chapter and a husband and wife were from Slater. If you read my blog posts, or my Facebook page, you’ve heard this story before and have already skipped this paragraph. BUT…

I’ve decided that since things are going to be really different this year, I’d like for some members of Jim’s Team (at least six people, and one dog) to walk like it is 1998! We started at Liberty Park, walked through downtown, and back to the park.

I want to walk the same route that we walked in 1998. It’s going to be much like that year—no whoopla, or formal program, just people dedicated to the cause. I can’t think of a better way to honor Jim’s memory. This year, we won’t be too distracted to wear our buttons with Jim’s picture on it.

So, Jim’s Team, are you in, or are you out? First, you need to register! To register for Jim’s Team click here. The designated day for the Sedalia Walk is September 12. But guess what? You don’t have to be in Sedalia on that day to walk--you can walk anytime, any day, anywhere.

It is my understanding that everyone who registers for Walk to End Alzheimer’s will get flags to put in your yard and to carry when you walk. Once you register, you can self-donate or ask for donations. If you are registered and donate or raise $100 you will get a walk shirt.

Let’s walk, Jim’s Team, for a world without Alzheimer’s or dementia. Let’s walk like it’s 1998!

***


To register for any team, or any walk, go to act.alz.org/walk.

To go to team page for Jim’s Team click here. You can register or support another walker.

Copyright © July 2020 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Little Voice


Lately I’ve been watching some old Magnum reruns. When people refer to him as a detective, he will correct them by saying he is a private investigator. As he goes about solving various mysteries, the little voice in his head sometimes nags him that he is missing a clue.


Since I don’t have access to what’s going on in other people’s heads, I don’t know if everyone has that little voice in their heads that talks to them. Oh, sure, we’ve all heard of people with psychotic tendencies that insist the voices in their heads instructed them to commit murders. Blame it on the voices, and don’t take responsibility for being cruel.

Well, my little voice talks to me constantly. The voice in my head tells me when something is right, I’ve done something I shouldn’t have, or sometimes the voice is boring and I know all is well in my world.

I read a lot of detective/thriller books. These books often mention the little voices, but since they are fiction, I wonder if the authors are writing from experience or if they are using their imaginations. One of the authors I read throws in humor even when talking about his little voice. His voice started off with, “Self,” and continued with the information. “I knew it was me,” he wrote, “because I recognized my voice.”

I may be wrong, but I think researchers must have that little voice guiding them through the mystery of unlocking the cause of a disease and developing a cure. The process of research is fascinating to me, and that is the reason I’ve signed up to virtually attend the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference later this month. I’ve always followed the research reports from the conference, but this is the first time I’ll have firsthand knowledge.

I think this conference will be good preparation for the DOD Peer Reviewed Alzheimer’s Research Program in September. The training and panel discussions will take place virtually this year. I am excited to be a small cog in the wheel rolling toward a cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s and related dementias. I’m sure my little voice will be in overdrive.  
  
Sometimes the voice keeps me awake at night. Nagging me and telling me that I have too many things to do to be drifting off into dreamland. I can’t even imagine how fast my little voice will be talking during the conference and panel, or how little sleep I’ll be getting. 

Copyright © July 2020 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Don't Trust that Day


I think the Mamas and Papas were on to something when they said you couldn’t trust Monday. The first weekday was more like Friday the 13th than Monday the 30th.

We were off to a good start since we headed out to mow the lawn before the temperature surged toward heat stroke level. I revved up my mower, put on my cap and googles. I reached for my ear protection muffs—and they were missing.

Since we were mowing the backyard, I pulled my car out and used the car remote to close the garage door, locked the car and hid the keys. I raced across the lawn to see if my husband was wearing my ear protection, but he insisted he was wearing the ones that were on his mower.

I went back to the house, took my car keys from their hidey-hole to use the car garage door opener. I searched every logical place and many illogical places for the earmuffs. Finally, I glanced down and saw them inside the back part of the mower.

A few clouds rolled in and it was almost pleasant mowing. Then, I noticed a streak of lightning. Since I was finished with my section of lawn, I went back to the garage. I unlocked the car and opened the garage door. I locked the car and put my car keys in my pocket.

After the sky cleared, I decided to take a flag to mark a seedling tree. I wound up circling the house and guess what wasn’t in my pocket when I got back to the house. Oh, it wasn’t just car keys missing, it was my entire key chain with every key I needed on it.

Harold and I searched the route I had taken, as I remembered, and couldn’t find my keys. Reminded me of Alzheimer’s Warning Sign #7: Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. I tried my best to retrace my steps and walked around the yard several times.

Well now. Trying not to panic, I called about getting a new car key from the dealership. When I heard the part about towing the car, I called my son. I have a spare key, but it wasn’t at our house. Eric came over to help me look. I walked with him showing him where I had driven the mower. I walked the area I remembered traveling, and he veered off to the side. In a few minutes, he found the keys. “I didn’t look there,” I said, “because I didn’t remember being over that far.” So much for retracing my steps, or in this case, the mower route.

As the day progressed, my husband and I went to the machine shop to see what kind of flowerpots we had. We found some pots, and when I went to move an over-sized pot, I tripped and fell. The good news was that I fell on some bags of mulch. Still, I twisted my sore knee and hurt my shoulder.

I took a few ibuprofen tablets for the pain, and thought I’d cozy up on the couch for a well- deserved rest. As I passed by Harold on the way to the living room, he said, “Oh I forgot to tell you…the Japanese beetles are back.”

The only good thing about the kind of Monday I had is that every other day of the week was fine. You just can’t trust Mondays.
  
Copyright © July 2020 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Friday, June 26, 2020

The Bee's Knees


When I took the dog out this morning, I noticed the wild roses were in full bloom. My husband considers them to be a pest growing along the fence row, but the dog, the bees, and I enjoyed their simple beauty.

I  noticed the bees buzzing around the roses and it made me think that those roses were the bee’s knees. Although that expression came unbidden to my mind, it made me curious as to why the heck it was there and whatever (besides seeing the bees) made it pop into my head.

Google tells me that the expression has been around since the late 18th century. At that time, it meant something small or insignificant. Well, wild roses aren’t quite as small as the actual bee’s knees, but they are somewhat insignificant in the entire scheme of nature.

The expression “the bee’s knees” gained popularity during the 1920s and meant something excellent or high quality. Now we’re talking!

Not everyone agrees on the reason for the expression, but some interesting ideas have been thrown out for considerations. It could be because bees carry pollen in sacks on their knees, making them a spot of concentrated goodness. Some people insist bees-knees is just a slang term for “business.” The expression could be because of a world champion Charleston dancer named Bee Jackson, who was popular in the ’20s. I think I’ll go with the dancer!

To my way of thinking, wild roses are the bee’s knees because their beauty is simple. Roses have delicate blossoms, but tiny, sharp thorns protect their stems.

When you have a loved one with dementia, it’s hard to find things that are the bee’s knees. Sometimes life stings and hurts. Yet, amidst the bad times and the sad times, you will find quiet, simple moments that may seem to be small and insignificant, but remain in your memory for a lifetime. It may be that rare smile of recognition, an “I love you, too” said with meaning, sitting on a park bench drinking milkshakes from Dairy Queen, or walking hand in hand while your heart beats with unconditional love. 

Beauty surrounds us, but we have to pay attention and look for it. Wild roses aren’t fancy like award-winning rose bushes, but they are plenty fine for a country girl. In fact, they are the bee’s knees.

Copyright © June 2020 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Friday, June 19, 2020

Just When I Needed It Most

I feel like I’ve taken a backseat to life lately. After a few months of cancellations, businesses closed, and being socially separated from most people that I know, I’ve found that the less I have to do, the longer it takes me to do it. I’m not as motivated as I normally am, and don’t spend as much time on a particular task.

I’ve always liked to power through projects. Start, persevere, and finish before the deadline, or at least by the deadline. Now, I find that two hours is about my limit for a couple of reasons. Typing or using a mouse triggers my trigger finger, carpal tunnel, and arthritis in my right hand. The second problem is that I have developed the attention span of a gnat. I’m easily distracted, or led astray, by the various activities that I need to accomplish during the day: volunteer work, conference calls, personal financial work, writing, housework, yard work…

Most days lately, I’ve felt my age. Up until recently, I thought age was only as old as you felt, and most of the time, I felt good. Oh, yeah, I had the occasional ache or pain, but mostly it was short lived.

Last week, I was a mess. During the endless yard work, I managed to get poison ivy from my wrists to my elbows. My left knee went from its usually achy self to screaming pain when I spent too long on my feet. I was miserable and out of sorts, impatient with others, and feeling just a little sorry for myself.

I made a rare trip to town for an appointment so I checked my post office box. I pulled out a few pieces of mail and noticed I had received a card. I opened it, and inside was what appeared to be a hand-decorated card. On the inside was a message “Remembering you in Prayer. Thinking of you!” It was from my church’s prayer ministry. So there it was—just what I needed when I needed it most.

Now that the state has opened up for business, many are breathing a sigh of relief and going about their activities as usual. Still, our most vulnerable people are still living life isolated and praying they don’t get Covid-19.

Long-term care facilities are still closed to outsiders. It’s sad to drive by the nursing homes where we played music and see empty parking lots. Isolation is hard on people who live in nursing homes. They miss their families, the entertainment, going on outings, and getting hugs from loved ones. It has to be heartbreaking for caregivers and families who can’t have in-person visits with the residents.

Well, life moves forward, and I need to move forward with it. Poison ivy clears up—eventually. It’s amazing what a difference the weather can make with the body aches and pains. I have an upcoming doctor’s appointment to have my knee checked out, and in the meantime, capsaicin patches and ibuprofen help. These setbacks are only temporary. 

The calendar says I’ve gained a year, but my heart says I’ve gained a new lease on life. Better days are coming, just when I needed them most.
   
Copyright © June 2020 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Sunday, May 24, 2020

May or May Not


Here it is Memorial weekend, and this month doesn’t have the feel of May. Every time I decide to put away my coat, the weather turns nasty and without its warmth, I shiver in my boots. In my opinion, most days have had the feeling of fall, rather than spring.

So I’m thinking that May may or may not show its sunshiny flower growing weather this year. In typical Missouri fashion, we went from cold and miserable to 90-degree humid weather in one day.  Turn off the heat and fire up the air conditioning. It’s almost as if mid-summer followed our fall like weather. If nothing else, up until now, the year 2020 has been downright weird.

I’ve concluded that people may or may not take precautions as the nation opens up after an extended period of hunkering down. As usual, our country has found something else to divide us rather than unite us.

The pandemic has been a life changing experience for most of us. Our world turned upside down, but the world is round, and it will righten itself—eventually. Whether this will happen too soon or too late depends on the view from inside your head.

Some people don’t handle adversity well, while others see hard times as a doorway to becoming a stronger, more determined person.

Well, now we all know that if everything shuts down, life gets hard. Our consumerism took a hit. We discovered that we didn’t need everything that we wanted. Scoring toilet paper, paper towels, and antiseptic wipes became the highlight of a shopping spree. Instead of random shopping trips, folks found creative ways to avoid entering stores. Grocery pickup gained in popularity. And a year ago could you in your wildest dreams think that you would wear a mask in a store or to the bank?

If we have learned nothing else from this experience, I hope that we have a new awareness that life-altering changes can happen in the blink of an eye. The loss of a job, a health crisis, a mental health condition, addiction, divorce, a death in the family, abuse, and an endless list of setbacks can make or break a person’s spirit.

We each have our own war to fight. Jim and I survived poverty and the gut-gnawing decision of what material things we could do without so we had money to pay the bills and feed our family. We never once took a handout from the government, family, or friends. Luckily, we were satisfied with the simple things in life. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have ambition and dreams, but life was to be enjoyed one day at a time. We traveled on a shoestring and camped in the mountains, hiked some adventurous trails, cooked delicious meals on a camp stove, and drove through the Rocky Mountain National Park to watch animals. These are some of my most treasured memories.

We built our own home with sweat equity and buying a few boards at a time. For several years, living was easier until it wasn’t. Dementia sabotaged life as we once knew it, and would never know it again. Words don’t exist to tell the complete story of how a degenerative brain disease affects family dynamics.

Jim’s ten-year illness and death motivated me to move outside my comfort zone into the world of volunteerism. Where I was inspired to embrace the memories and share my experiences, I can completely understand those who choose to move on and let their memories fade away.

Each individual has to deal with adversity in his or her own way. They may or may not live life in a way that is palatable to others. Unless another’s actions have a direct impact on me, I don’t waste my time worrying about what someone else does, thinks, or says. My responsibility is to travel my own journey and exit this world with as few regrets as possible.

Copyright © May 2020 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

When Routine Isn’t Routine


During the COVID-19  pandemic,  routine isn’t routine anymore. I’ve moved from a daily double-booked, jam-packed calendar to day after day of being left to my own devices.

Just because my calendar is clear does not mean that I have no obligations. I still have work to do on my books, website updates to make, conference calls, emails, Facebook and Twitter advocacy posts, not to mention house and yard work that has to be done routinely. And laundry never goes away on its own. The problem lies in not in routine, but the lack thereof.

My routine does not exist. If I don’t feel like doing something today, I’m fine with putting it off until. Instead of jumping in and working on projects, I’ll get sidetracked with playing my ukulele, reading a good book, watching TV, or sitting on the deck drinking coffee, and occasionally taking a nap—in other words, the kind of activities I always wanted to have time for when I retired.

I  accomplish much more when I have a routine. I try to get back on track with my to-do list. But sometimes I don’t do the routine things required to know what I should be doing. I may go days without looking at my mail, or email. I ignore the items on the dry erase board. I forget to even look at the calendar and if I do, I may not be looking at the right day, week, or month.

Routine is important for all of us, but especially for persons with dementia and their caregivers. A few things for caregivers to consider when setting a routine:

1)      Keep grooming for your loved one on a regular schedule. When he starts the day with hair combed, teeth brushed, toileted, and fresh clothing, you’ve helped establish a good beginning for a new day.
2)      Have meals at regular times. Your loved one may not experience hunger in a normal manner. This can range from not realizing it is time to eat to forgetting that he has just had a meal and thinking it is time to eat again. The type of snacks you want to have available depends on whether your loved one needs extra nutrition to maintain weight, or a low calorie snack to avoid unnecessary weight gain.
3)      Give medications at the same time every day. Two reasons for this—the medications will provide continuing benefits, and you won’t forget it!
4)       Schedule activities for the time of day that works best for your loved one and suitable to her abilities. Sundowning can be a problem for people with dementia, and they won’t be at their best during evening hours. Activities can be as simple as taking a walk, going for a car ride, watching a favorite show together, or simply sitting on the porch drinking coffee or tea. Oh, and ice cream and milkshakes can go a long way to brightening up a day.
5)      Establish a nighttime routine. Some people with dementia do not sleep well. Taking a relaxing bath and putting on pajamas can help remind them that it is bedtime.

The only thing you can depend on is that every day will be a new experience when you are the caregiver for a loved one with dementia. Keeping life as routine as possible is the best way to stay on track.

Sometimes you may find that no matter how much you try, it’s really a coin flip—heads, things go according to the planned routine; tails, the day dissolves into chaos. On chaotic days, the flip side of routine—flexibility—rules the day.

Copyright © May 2020 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Escape Plan


People are getting restless with the COVID-19 pandemic Stay Home orders. About half the people want to open up the economy and go back to work (or to play), the other half believes we need to bide out time until it’s safe.

I’ll admit that I’m firmly in the be patient camp, but I’m in a better position than a lot of people. I’m retired, don’t have rent or house payments, no car payment, and can do just about anything I need to do on my PC.

On the other hand, I’m pretty tired of not seeing my family. I’ve found that I’m getting downright lazy and have zero ambition. I also tire easily. I refuse to look at my 401k.

From time to time I get a hint of depression and my heart feels sad for the people who are hurting financially, those who are working and don’t feel safe, and for the sick and dying. I ache for those who have lost friends and families to the pandemic.

This morning, I had a couple of random thoughts. One was the TV series The Last Ship. That show was a worst-case scenario of a worldwide pandemic. My nephew said it was on Hulu. I don’t recommend watching it.

So many people feel like they are in jail and that reminded me of a story of when Jim first went into the nursing home. I went to visit him one day and noticed a group of residents creeping toward the Exit door in the Alzheimer’s unit.

From Indelible:    
Escape Plan

There was a bit of an insurrection one evening at the nursing home with some of the residents hell bent on escaping.

“Can we get out that door?” The old lady clung to her walker as she posed the question to one of her companions.

“No, let’s try that one,” replied the old man, hitching up a wayward overalls’ strap.

His four followers, two with walkers, one with a cane, and one who shuffled her feet as she clung to the rail, proceeded down the hallway toward the door.

“Dinner is ready!” announced the nurse as the group passed in front of the dining room door. The group forgot about escaping and shuffled to the dining room.

The nurse smiled at me. “They’ve been taking turns setting off the door alarms today. It happens from time to time. It should be an exciting evening with a full moon tonight.” Some people scoffed at a full moon affecting people, but one thing I’d noticed was the scoffers did not work in a nursing home.

I’m looking forward to the day the pandemic is gone, or at least well under control. I look forward to life as normal—or at least the new normal. I know it will be a long time before I take going where I want, when I want, for granted.

In the meantime, my escape plan will be sitting on the deck, playing my ukulele, or reading a good book.

Copyright © April 2020 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ

Saturday, April 11, 2020

An Unexpected Pause and Reset


In my life, I’ve noticed how the worst possible circumstances can bring about both good and bad changes. When Jim developed dementia, I could only see doom and gloom once I learned how the story was going to end. My heart was broken, and I believed my soul was broken too. I’d always taken for granted that we’d grow old together, and that was swept aside with the tidal wave of disease.

We still had some good times. Although the disease was progressive, we made the most of the time we had when Jim was in the early stages. We traveled, we spent time with family, and life went on as usual for a few years with only the occasional glitch.

Jim’s disease motivated me to become a different person. I became an active volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association and discovered my mission in life. I found an inner strength that I never suspected existed. It was as if I pushed reset and rebooted my life.

Our world has become an unusual place as a deadly virus forced us to take a pause. Once again, things that we took for granted—going to conferences, concerts, buying everything we needed at the grocery store, going on vacation, hugging friends and family—disappeared like the smog that clouded our cities.

Life is not normal now. I’ve not spent this much time at home since I was a kid and lived twenty miles from nowhere. As they say, life is what happens while we are making plans. I’ve lost track of how many events have been cancelled. The Alzheimer’s Forum in DC was the biggy, but countless other meetings, shopping excursions, girl’s days with my mom and sisters, music practice/programs, and eating out cancelled. Life as I have grown to know it, paused.

The pandemic has taught us several lessons:


1)    Our health care system needs to be overhauled. Doctors and nurses should not die for a lack of PPE.
2)     We have to depend on each other to not spread the virus. We must do whatever it takes—social distancing, washing our hands, or simply staying home.
3)     People learned the value of home cooking, and without the busy schedules, families gather around the dinner table.
4)     Parents discovered the real value of teachers.
5)     People have learned creative ways to celebrate and to mourn.
6)     The pandemic brought out the best in people—sewing masks, designing and producing face shields, picking up groceries for their neighbors, and showing kindness.
7)     The pandemic has brought out the worst in people—hoarding toilet paper (of all things!), throwing their gloves on the ground, blaming others for the virus, ignoring safety measures, and being selfish.


With a drastic change in lifestyle, the earth is healing. The air is cleaner and the earth is rumbling less. (I didn’t know rumbling was a thing!) We’ve found out that our lives were cluttered with things we never needed. Most of us have seen the world around us, and family life in a way that we’ve never seen them before.

Of course, the economic impact is devastating, and people long for life to get back to normal. Lives have been lost to the pandemic, and lives have been saved due to cleaner air, less traffic, and slowing down seasonal flu.

We’ve taken a step back, and after our “pause” our “normal” will be a new normal. It is as if God pushed the reset button.

Copyright © April 2020 by L.S. Fisher
#ENDALZ