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