Presentations

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Let’s Cream Alzheimer’s

It’s hard to believe that our “Let’s Cream Alzheimer’s” Ice Cream Social and Balderdash Championship is only a week away. We don’t expect to make a lot of money at the social; in fact, we are relying on free will donations. What we hope to do is raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and our Memory Walk, and have fun, of course.

The ice cream social is a new idea and a learning experience for us and has been somewhat of a challenge because our Memory Walk committee is so small. We will be depending a lot on our friends at Fairview, relatives, and the youth group at church. Never having had a social before, we aren’t sure how much ice cream we’ll need. We don’t know if people will show up. Will we have enough Balderdash players?

The problem with a disease like Alzheimer’s is caregivers are often too tied down taking care of their loved ones to participate in fundraisers. A caregiver can be worn slick from having to make a lot of hard decisions. Those that have been through the gamut of caring for and losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s often want to put the past behind them. I can’t blame them for trying to get their lives back on an even keel.

Alzheimer’s is not a glamorous disease, and often one that people try to hide from the world. The person with dementia does not want to be treated like a child, and families may be embarrassed by their loved one’s behavior.

Too often caregivers don’t realize how much they can benefit from Alzheimer’s Association employees and volunteers. A speaker at one of our support group meetings helped me deal with Jim’s quirkiness. The speaker said to gauge behavior by asking yourself, “So what?” If the problem isn’t endangering anyone, “So what?”

His practical advice helped me through some sticky situations. One day Jim’s mom called to tell me he was out in the yard naked and wouldn’t come inside. She couldn’t get him to put his clothes back on. She was so distressed.

“I’ll be right home,” I assured her. “He probably had a reason for taking his clothes off. He’s either too hot, or he’s had an accident.”

“But he’s out in the yard without any clothes on.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. We lived in the country on a gravel road without much traffic. “So what if someone comes by? If they don’t want to see a naked man, they can keep their eyes on the road. After all, he’s is our yard.”

Recently, I saw a letter on a health Website written by a woman whose husband had Alzheimer’s. She was so embarrassed by her husband’s behavior that she didn’t want to take him out in public. She felt like people were staring at them. My comment was, “Jim didn’t notice people staring, and I got to the point where I didn’t care.”

We continued to go places that Jim enjoyed and didn’t worry about what others might think. I always considered Penny Braun, former executive director of the Mid-Missouri Chapter, to be my mentor about Alzheimer’s. Penny always said, “Ice cream solves a lot of problems.”
Following the advice of a wise lady, I took Jim to Dairy Queen almost daily.

A few days ago, I was looking for a specific picture of Jim. Digging through the boxes of pictures I don’t have in albums yet, I came across pictures of Jim in all stages of the disease. It tugged at my heart to see him in the early stages when he wore his cowboy hat, boots, and 501 Levis. He and his brother sat on the patio playing guitars together. I remember that day—Jim was having trouble finding the right chords to play. Jim, the master guitarist missing a simple chord change and forgetting the lyrics to songs he had sung for years.

Yes, those days are behind me now, but I believe those of us who have finished our journeys should help those who are still traveling. I hope we “cream” Alzheimer’s in my lifetime. All I know is that we can’t give up on finding a cure.

If some of us don’t step out of our comfort zone and put effort into bringing Alzheimer’s to the forefront, millions of Americans will always struggle with the daily challenges of caregiving and the heartache of a cruel and debilitating disease. We need to put the research spotlight on the challenge to end Alzheimer’s.

“Let’s Cream Alzheimer’s” is a good way to join a mission statement and a fun event. So if you are in Sedalia on June 19, join us 7 PM at the Celebration Center while we “cream” Alzheimer’s. It’s a time to relax and enjoy. The hardest decision you will need to make is “two scoops, or one?”

Copyright (c) June 2010 L. S. Fisher
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