Monday, November 23, 2020

You’re Not the Boss of Me

 


When I was a kid and one of my siblings tried to tell me what to do, I would say, “You’re not the boss of me.” Now, I’m trying to tell my dog that.

 

As long as I’m moving around, she will find a spot of sunlight and nap, but let me sit down to work on the PC and she’ll start pawing my leg indicating that it’s time to (a) take her outside or (b) go to the living room and play with her.

 

If I try to ignore her, she will bark or woo-woo-woo. Since she is not normally a barky dog (unless the doorbell rings) I know that she is starting to get bossy with me. Telling her that she’s not the boss of me doesn’t work anymore than it did when I was a kid.

 

You would think that once a person retires, that would be the end of being bossed around. Demands on your time are a subtle way of someone bossing you. They are taking away your free time, and your choice as to how you want to spend your personal time.

 

I’ve finally worked my way up to saying “no” more often. I hate when someone won’t take no for an answer. I hate it worse when I change my firm no to a yes.

 

Once time is gone, you can never get it back. None of us knows how much time we have left. That can make us want to keep frantically busy, or it can make us want to slow down and enjoy time.

 

Have you ever known someone who finds out they have a short time to live, and he spends what time he has left working every spare minute to get his affairs in order? Or, you may know someone with a terminal disease that takes a cruise, travels across country to visit family, and lives life to the fullest. How we feel about time determines how we use it.

 

One of the saddest uses of time is when someone with dementia forgets how to do the things that once brought them pleasure. They forget their skills and can lose their initiative to do anything at all.

 

Well-meaning caregivers may treat a person with dementia like a child, rather than with the dignity they have earned. Instead of bossing a person with dementia, professional and family caregivers should seek cooperation through the power of suggestion. When the nursing home couldn’t get Jim to take a bath, it was all in the approach. Some would say, “You’ve got to take a bath now,” and didn’t work because Jim didn’t like to be bossed. “Do you want to take a bath?” got a “No” or a blank stare because those were the usual responses to a question. A cheerful, “Hey, it’s time to take your bath. You’ll feel so much better” resulted in willing cooperation.

 

Throughout the years of Jim’s dementia, I worked full-time, completed my bachelors degree, and took care of him at home and later the nursing home. People often asked me how I did it. My reply was “I have no idea.”  

 

I’ve always liked to have plenty to do without being overwhelmed with a pile of projects that had to be done…yesterday. Lately, I’ve been staying home and now realize how many personal projects I need to finish, how much work needs to be done to upkeep a large house with a huge yard, the sheer volume of daily cooking and cleaning, and how little time I really have to relax.

 

 Maybe life itself is the boss of me. It could be that I have too many bosses and they are playing tug-of-war with my time. My precious time.

 

The one person who should be the boss of me is the only one who isn’t. That person is me. Now, if I can just convince the dog.

 

Copyright © November 2020 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Monday, November 16, 2020

Medicinal Music

 


When I get to feeling down, I grab my ukulele and run through some chords, and maybe play a few tunes. I’m building up quite the list of songs that I can play and sing—and a bigger list that needs work. Some of these songs require awkward chord changes, or I just can’t quite get the tune right.

 

I don’t claim to be a great singer or exceptionally talented on the ukulele. That’s what makes it so good for my soul. I don’t put pressure on myself to play perfectly. I just let it roll, enjoy myself, and let improvement come gradually and naturally. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching the Voice, it’s that perfection isn’t as important as enjoying the music and singing from the heart.

 

The pandemic means that I don’t leave home often and when I do, it’s usually for something necessary. I did, however, drive to Versailles to visit with my mom. I took my ukulele along for the ride—just in case. I played a few tunes, and my mom and I sang a gospel song together. “I think I need to practice playing this on my banjolele,” I said. “It would sound great with a little bluegrass spin on it.”

 

I put the uke aside, and my mom and I reminisced about people we knew years ago. We spoke names that neither of us had spoken in decades. It did my heart good to spend that time with my mom. We talk on the phone every day, but an in-person visit filled a missing link for both of us.

 

Spending so much time at home has the disadvantage of my thinking turning inward. I have to be careful not to dwell on my mistakes, missteps, and the times I have offended or hurt others. While some might revel in their accomplishments or victories, I will remember the humiliation of being smacked in the face with a spiked volleyball or in the throat with a line drive. Things I should have forgotten by now, as I assure you, I’ve forgotten many others.

 

Forgetting bad memories is good, but forgetting all memories is bad. To forget our skills and talents, our family, and the life we have lived is unfathomable to most of us. Dementia chips away at the essence of personality built on a lifetime of experiences.

 

Dementia steals short-term memory first and leaves long-term memory until later in the disease. People with dementia become time travelers. I heard an elderly woman say she was out past curfew and her dad was going to be angry. I saw a man upset because he couldn’t get outdoors to check on his cows. One woman thought Jim was her husband. Jim was plagued by memories of Vietnam as repressed memories came back to haunt him.

 

Music could calm Jim. Jim was blessed with an abundance of talent reinforced by daily practice. In the early stages of dementia, Jim picked up his guitar each morning and played it. Sometimes he sang, but other times he allowed the magic of his guitar to take him to a better time. After he forgot how to play his guitar, he listened to some of the songs he used to play.

 

Music has medicinal value. A happy song can make me forget physical or mental pain. Music brings to mind happy memories of jam sessions on the front porch. My thoughts turn to loved ones forever tethered to my heart by the melody of an old country song.

 

Copyright © November 2020 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Drastic Change

 


The past week has brought a drastic change, but I’m not sure what caused it and how to keep the level of comfort I presently have. Like a miracle, I’ve had seven consecutive pain-free days.

 

Pain has been a constant in my life for several years, with only varying levels. For the past few months, the level has been unmanageable. I’ve used capsicum patches, braces, ibuprofen, good shoes, and being careful not to lift too much. I’ve followed the doctor’s order to pace myself, as if I had any other choice.

 

I’ve had to sleep in soft leggings with my knees bent to lessen the pain. A few nights ago, my Halloween leggings were in the laundry so I wore my super soft Christmas leggings. I woke up in the night and straightened my legs, and immediately noticed—no pain. As amazing as that was, I was also able to close my right hand. The swelling and stiffness was gone.

 

What had changed? I thought back and could only find minor changes. I had run out of my low sodium V8 juice and hash browns and wondered if the nightshade and arthritis connection could be real.

 

Pain can be the bane of a person’s existence. Jim had persistent neck and back pain. When he was in the first nursing home (before he was kicked out), they weren’t good at pain management. I would go to see him, and he would be holding his back and walking bent over. The first thing I would ask is, “Have you given him his pain meds?”

 

“He didn’t tell us he was in pain, so we can’t give it to him.”

 

Jim didn’t talk, so I’m not sure how he was magically going to tell them he needed pain medication. “Look at him! He is obviously in pain.”

 

They lost my trust, and at the care plan meeting, I finally got them to agree to give him pain medication on a schedule.

 

I don’t take pain medication for my arthritis. If the medication is strong enough to mask the pain, I will throw up. My nightmarish experience several years ago after surgery was vomiting so violently it made me feel like I was coming apart at the “seam.”

 

My ortho doc has been on the same page with me to avoid surgery. I’ve also heard mixed reviews of knee surgery, so I’ll put it off as long as humanly possible without damaging my knees beyond repair.

I have a reprieve, at least for now. If I don’t  figure out what happened and how it happened, I’m afraid the problem will come back with a vengeance.

 

Could it be the extra breaks, the shoes, avoiding nightshade vegetables, or  something I haven’t thought of? Could it be the comfy Christmas leggings?

 

Whatever the reason, it is a gift. It isn’t far from the realm of possibilities that it could be a little early Christmas magic at work.

 

Copyright © November 2020 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Third Time’s a Charm



As far as I’m concerned, a morning without coffee is like a day without sunrise. I just can’t function without coffee, so when my coffee pot gave up the ghost, I was not happy. 

As usual, I fixed my pot the night before so that all I had to do was push the button and head back to bed for a short nap. When I returned to the kitchen a large puddle of coffee streamed out from the pot.

 

I cleaned up the mess, poured myself a cup, and headed back to bed. The coffee tasted weak, and to be honest, somewhat nasty. I’m picky about my coffee and that just didn’t cut it. I went back to the kitchen poured everything out and started over. I pushed the “ON” button, and nothing happened. I pushed it again—no response. I unplugged the pot and plugged it back in, same outcome.

 

Knowing how I am about my coffee, my husband went on Amazon and ordered a new coffee pot. Unfortunately, it must have been coming in on a slow boat from China because our speedy delivery arrangement did not work for the pot. Are they nuts? What was I supposed to do?

 

I never intended to be a coffee drinker. I blame it on Grandma Fisher. When we would go to her house, she insisted on making a fresh pot of coffee. “I don’t drink coffee,” I would tell her. Didn’t matter, she poured me a cup anyway. Then, she insisted you drink your cup of coffee so that she could read the coffee grounds in the bottom. Oh, yes, it was strong, hot, and had grounds in it.

 

Grandma Fisher was a little on the spooky side. While we drank our coffee, she would regale us with stories of her dire predictions of death, and sure enough the person died. Well, you know, I just jumped up and rinsed out my cup.

 

Grandma may have gotten me started, but Jim reinforced my habit daily. At home, we drank our first cup of coffee in bed each morning. When we traveled on our annual trips to Colorado, he took his Coleman camp stove and his drip pot. He stopped at rest areas periodically to make fresh coffee for the thermos. One of the most telling moments of how devastating dementia can be was the morning at a hotel when Jim couldn’t remember how to make coffee.

 

From Indelible:


One morning Jim prepared to make coffee in the in-room coffeemaker. He picked up the pot, set it down, picked it up, and set it down. He looked around in confusion trying to decide what to do next. From the bed, I said, “Put coffee in the basket.” 

“Oh! That’s right.” He added the coffee and then acted like he expected the coffee to make itself.

“Put water in the pot.”

He put water in the pot.

“Pour it in the top”

He poured it in.

“Turn the pot on.” He turned it on. As soon as the coffee was done, he was back in full form. He poured the coffee into the thermos, cleaned the pot, and brought me a cup of coffee in bed.   

 

As I got ready for bed the evening after my coffee pot quit, I contemplated going to town for a cup of coffee the next morning.  I figured I could just wear my jammies. Maybe I would need to get more than one cup… Then, the light bulb went off and I remembered I had a four-cup Mr. Coffee in the kitchenette downstairs.

 

Anyway, I got by until my new pot came in. I decided to take advantage of the bells and whistles and set the clock, the timer, and put the dial on auto. The next morning, the coffee wasn’t made, so I pushed the brew button. Later, I looked the pot over. “Did you set it on AM or is it on PM,” my husband asked. What a silly question, but I checked anyway. Ooops. So I reset it for AM and the second night, I went to bed knowing I would have a hot pot of coffee ready when my alarm went off. Nope. Cold pot, no coffee. That time my husband read the instruction book and informed me that I’d skipped a step. Well, the third time was a charm. I loved waking up to Folgers in my cup.

 

I thought about the expression—the third time is a charm. I realized it means that I never gave up although I had already failed two times. So is the third time really a charm, or simply a matter of perseverance?

 

Copyright © October/November 2020 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ