Monday, May 27, 2024

Memorial Day: Remembering Jim

Memorial Weekend has become a time for sales, barbeques, beaches, picnics, and vacation time. Others decorate graves, attend Memorial Day services at cemeteries, or attend a parade. However Americans choose to observe the three-day weekend, they may pause to give credit for their freedom to members of the armed forces of the past, present, and future.

The tradition of placing flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers was first observed nationally three years after the Civil War in 1868. Major General John A. Logan chose May 30 as Decoration Day because flowers would be blooming then. The first large observance took place at Arlington National Cemetery where flowers were strewn on both Union and Confederate graves.

The first time Jim and I visited Arlington in the 1980s, we were awestruck by the size! We thought we could just walk around and find graves of famous people, but since the cemetery was spread over 657 acres, we chose to do what most reasonable tourists do and bought tickets for the tour bus.

Since we caught the last tour of the day, we had to quickly visit each site and board the same bus. The bus stopped for the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Everyone hustled past the Memorial Amphitheatre except Jim. I hung back to see why he wasn’t joining the crowd.

“We are going to miss the changing of the guard,” I said.

Jim stood in front of Audie Murphy’s grave marker videotaping. “This is what I wanted to see more than anything,” he said. I understood why Jim was so entranced with the gravesite. Jim had already worn out several videotapes of To Hell and Back, the movie about the true story of Audie Murphy starring Murphy as himself.

This incident is etched into my memory as an example of Jim’s unique view of life. He was more intrigued by a simple grave marker of a man he admired than by a ceremony.

After several minutes, we walked toward the crowd and saw part of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

As we walked back to the bus, Jim said, “I want to be buried here.”

“That’s not a good idea,” I argued, “because I wouldn’t be able to visit your grave.”

He smiled and put his arm around me. It was just a passing thought and not something he dwelled on.

Later, he chose a place in Colorado where he wanted his ashes spread. Maybe he remembered my remarks about Arlington, because he said, “It might be nice to have some place that family could visit too. Maybe a marker somewhere.” When Jim passed away, his body was cremated and we honored his wishes to spread half of his ashes in the designated place.

I knew I’d found the perfect place for Jim’s marker when I saw the Missouri Veterans Cemetery at Higginsville, which has the beauty and grace of Arlington on a much smaller scale. I knew Jim well enough to know that had he seen the Missouri Veterans Cemetery, he would have preferred it to Arlington. After military honors, the remainder of Jim’s ashes were place in a niche in a columbarium that overlooks a small lake.

Annually, on Memorial Day, a crowd gathers for a ceremony to honor the veterans buried on the site. I can’t help but imagine that, in spirit, Jim will be fishing in the lake, ignoring the ceremony, being his own person, doing his own thing.

Copyright © May 2024 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Old Friends

I recently watched two movies on the same day about female friendship. The first movie I watched was Patsy and Loretta. The two country singers Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn had a friendship forged in mutual respect, similar life styles, and honesty. Their story begins when Patsy Cline was injured in a car accident and ends when she dies in a plane crash.

The other movie I watched, strangely for the first time, was Thelma and Louise. The adventures of the friends quickly turn into misadventures. Louise threatened to shoot a man who was attempting to rape Thelma. He made the mistake of yelling at her that he should have continued, so Louise shot and killed him. Later, after a hitchhiker stole their money, Thelma robbed a liquor store. As an armada of police cars chases the two fugitives, they opt to kiss, grab hands and “keep going” and fly their Thunderbird into a canyon. Friends to the end.

Friends that earn our undying love are few and far between, but that does not devalue friends who celebrate our successes and support us when we fail. We gain friends throughout life who share common goals.

Our first friends are family. Our cousins and immediate family members share life experiences with us. When we begin school, we gain other friends. Several of the women in my high school graduating class meet monthly for lunch. Our friendship is stronger now than it was when we saw each other on a daily basis.

As we grow older, our in-laws become part of our family. Jim and I both came from large families and I gained a multitude of in-laws throughout my lifetime. His family became my family.

Thelma and Louise became friends at work. Considering how many hours a person spends at their job throughout their lifetime, it is not surprising that some of our co-workers become our closest friends and confidants.

In 1998, after Jim showed obvious signs of dementia, I began volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association. I opened up my heart to persons with dementia, other volunteers, and staff at our local Alzheimer’s Association Chapter. My world expanded to annual advocacy trips to Washington, DC, where I forged additional friendships. Distance and time do not diminish the special bond that I have with my fellow Alzheimer’s advocates.

When I joined BPW (now, Sedalia Business Women) in 2006, I had no clue as to how many new friends I would make. Now, many of them are old friends, and as our club grows, I make new friends on an ongoing basis. Like Patsy and Loretta, we don’t always agree on everything, but the friendship doesn’t waver.

Later in life, I gained friendships through church, line dancing, and music. During the past trying years, I’ve mostly watch services on my cell phone and arthritis ended line dancing but I still hold these friends in my heart. Music has taken a larger part in my life after I learned to play the ukulele and joined the family band. This has been a two- or three-fold advantage. I see much more of my family, renew old ties with friends who are in nursing homes, meet new friends, and learn to know other musicians.

A song says “you can’t make old friends” but I don’t believe that. Sometimes you meet someone who seems like an old soul. It’s hard to explain an immediate strong connection and it almost feels as if the person is not merely an “old” friend, but an ancient friend. That was how my friendship and love for Jim felt. Almost from the beginning, Jim said he would lay down his life for me. I never once doubted that he meant it. After I met Jim, my life began the destiny that made me the person I am today.

Jim’s endless love gave me the courage to live life and love fearlessly. Yes, I open myself up to grief and loss, but it is well worth it.     

 

Copyright © May 2024 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Friday, May 3, 2024

The Bigger They Are



We’ve often heard the expression that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. I was reminded of that idiom after the recent series of storms where mighty trees crashed to the ground.

The phrase is believed to have originated from the sport of boxing and is sometimes attributed to Robert Fitzsimmons prior to a fight. As with the tree, the boxer was referring to a physical fall, but the expression means much more that physical falls.

The actual meaning is that the more powerful or important a person is, they suffer more when they fail. We’ve seen this play out many times in politics, with celebrities, and influential people in our communities. Some people relish the fall of the mighty, while others may be dumbfounded or shocked that a person they admired could be guilty of a heinous act.

At one time, only famous people had to worry about their ill-advised faux pas being disclosed to the public. Now, for better or worse, we have social media to point fingers, criticize,  or play judge, jury, and recommenders of punitive punishment for our neighbors, random strangers, or Facebook friends of friends.

In the real world, as we age, we find out that physical falls are a much greater threat than a mean Facebook post. The hardest fall I ever had was on ice. My feet went out from under me and I fell flat on my back and hit my head on rock-solid ice. For a flash second, I thought the fall would kill me, but once I felt the excruciating pain in my head, I thought I had broken my head. There are serious advantages of having a hard head.

Each year during my Medicare physical, the nurse asks if I’ve had any falls within the last year. Since I can be clumsy and suffer intermittent vertigo, I usually answer in the affirmative. Fortunately, I only have a few bruises to show.

Jim always had amazing balance. He used to throw a ladder on the stairs to the basement to change out a stairwell light bulb on the ceiling. I couldn’t stand to watch while the ladder teetered, but he was unconcerned.

After Jim developed dementia, he began to have problems with mobility. He would lose his balance and fall. One of the reasons people with dementia fall is that they have trouble finding their way around and pay no attention to hazards. They also tend to walk faster than they should, which can throw them off balance. Our family doctor took Jim off blood thinners because of the fall risk. Jim had several falls while he was in long-term care, and had to have stitches from time to time, but fortunately, he never broke any bones.

  Although we can’t eliminate all falls, we can certainly limit our fall risk with some home modifications:

 Rocking the Walker: My husband and I both have mobility problems. My orthopedic doctor recommended that I use a walker at night when I get out of bed. I’ve discovered over the years, that with my arthritis, I use the walker early in the mornings. Depending on the kind of day I’m having, I may need the walker throughout the day and take it outside to walk the dog. Other times, I don’t need any aides to walk, or a cane will provide all the support I need.

Avoiding Stairs and Carrying Heavy Items. Stairs can be a tripping hazard for a person with balance issues. We installed a chairlift to the basement. We had stairs leading down to our garage and we replaced them with a wheelchair lift. Both items were expensive, but they sure have made life easier. An inexpensive wheeled cart streamlines bringing in groceries. I load the cart from our vehicle, roll it across the garage floor, and onto the lift and into the house.

Proper Lighting and Avoid Tripping Hazards: We are fortunate to have a well-lit house. Even so, we leave lights on at night in the areas where we need them and have nightlights throughout the house. We’ve removed throw rugs, and switched out carpet for solid flooring. We make sure that all floors remain uncluttered. We both keep water at our bedside to avoid getting up for drinks in the night.

 It may be that the bigger they are, the harder they fall, but small people with fragile bones must be extra careful about falling. A fracture can be the difference between living in your home and a long rehabilitation recovery at a facility.  

The best fall prevention is risk assessment. Once your environment is as safe as possible, use every precaution to navigate safely through your home.

 Copyright © April 2024 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Monday, April 29, 2024

Like Sand through the Hourglass

When I was a teenager, I watched the soap opera “Days of Our Lives.” Before each episode, MacDonald Carey would solemnly say, “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of our Lives.”

Today, as I was pondering the passage of time, the hourglass came to mind, as well as, the profound saying that introduced a sappy soap opera. I think the image of the hourglass dwelled within my subconscious mind choosing today to come to the surface.

In my younger years, I imagined that the days of my life were so numerous that time seemed to pass slowly. I’ve noticed that the older, I get, the days, months, and years speed by without ever tapping the brakes.

As we age, we begin to realize that life is fragile and can be finished without warning. With each passing year, our bodies, our priorities, and the texture of our lives change. Friends, acquaintances, and family members move in and out of our lives. Some people may never cross our minds again, while others leave an indelible mark on our hearts.

The most difficult part of life is death of loved ones. Only time and determination can help heal a grief-stricken heart. I believe that as long as someone lives in my memories, they are with me.

The Past: The saddest part of Alzheimer’s disease is that as the memory fades, so does the history that makes each of us a unique person. We embody the history of all our yesterdays, good or bad. Our personality is built around our history. I think that all of us have faced adversity during our lifetime—some more than others. If we overcome adversity and learn from our mistakes, we develop character. Sometimes that character will shine through during the darkest days of dementia. 

 The Present: For a caregiver, quality of life is determined by how we embrace each day. I often found that taking each day a moment at a time, one problem at a time, helped me through the difficult days. A trip to town for ice cream or a walk in the park were good ways to spend some relaxing time with Jim. I also carved out some time for myself—to pursue activities that brought joy into my life whether it was lunch with friends or family, a movie, or a day trip. I lived in the present and tried not to dwell on how the future was going to impact Jim’s health.

The Future: Jim’s dementia relentlessly progressed and the future was bleak. Although, today’s medicine has the potential to slow the progression of the disease, we still await a cure. It is important for a caregiver to continue to live her life to the fullest. We need to plan for self-sufficiency and face the future with courage. Our happiness depends on how much hope and joy we feel as we think about our tomorrows.

As the sands slip through the hourglass, we need to treasure the days we have been given. Sometimes, we have life within life: reinvention, rejuvenation, revival of spirit, and determination to become our best selves moving forward. Is it possible that before the sand runs completely through, we can flip the hourglass over and move forward with more and better days ahead?

 Copyright © April 2024 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Partial Eclipse of the Brain

Our town was in the path of totality for the 2017 eclipse, and we hosted an eclipse party for family who were outside the path. In our area, the eclipse of 2024 was only a partial eclipse and knowing I had two obligations for the day, I never purchased eclipse glasses.

When I realized the eclipse was taking place in the time after the Alzheimer’s Walk committee meeting and before playing music at Primrose, I texted the committee to see if anyone had a spare pair of eclipse glasses. I was in luck when Monica brought glasses to the meeting.

After the meeting adjourned, I drove to a nearby parking lot and parked in the shade. I stepped out of my car and looked skyward through the glasses. The eclipse had just begun with only a small semicircle shadow encroaching on one side of the sun. I stood outside my car occasionally monitoring the progress of the eclipse.

A young man approached me and asked if the eclipse had started and if I had an extra pair of glasses. I answered him in the positive and negative. “I just got these glasses from a friend,” I said. “Would you like to look?” I handed him the glasses, he looked, thanked me, and handed the glasses back.

Over the next hour or so, I watched the shadow of the moon block out the sun, and it made me think of how Alzheimer’s eclipses the brain. At first, the shadow only blocked a small part of the sun, and had we not known about the eclipse, we wouldn’t have noticed anything out of the ordinary.

In the early stages of dementia, most of the brain is still functioning and some people go on with their normal life without noticing any significant changes. As we get older, we don’t expect to be as sharp as we were decades before. It’s easy to push aside any concerns about not remembering every little detail. We are busy, after all. Who hasn’t lost their car in a Walmart or a Mall parking lot? When we pay bills online and with paperless statements, it’s not beyond the realm of possibilities that we forget to pay the occasional bill or can’t quite finish QuickBooks in a timely manner. Not to mention, my daily tasks includes finding all the objects that I’ve put in the wrong places…and occasionally they are far from where they are normally kept. Another subtle sign of early stage dementia is taking longer to finish tasks. It does take longer now that I’ve lost my ability to multitask.

During the middle stages of dementia, more of the brain is damaged, just as the shadow from the moon covers more of the sun mid eclipse. Memory loss and confusion increase and chunks of personal history and events can disappear like vapor. A person in the middle stage of dementia can forget how to complete common tasks they had previously mastered. At one time, Jim was mechanically inclined, and could fix any appliance. After his dementia progressed, he could take things apart, but wasn’t able to put them back together. Jim used to sleep during the day and pace or wander at night. The biggest danger was that when he wandered, he continued in the same direction. Jim became compulsive about folding paper towels and stuffing his shirt pockets with them. I had to lay out his clothes and help him dress, and sometimes re-dress. Jim became silent as aphasia took away his ability to speak and sing. At one time Jim could play any instrument with strings, but gradually lost the ability to play his guitar.

In the late stages of dementia, the partial eclipse of the brain leaves only a sliver of light shining through. A person in the late stages requires care 24/7. If a loved one is living at home, the days seem as if they are much longer for the care partner. Physical symptoms develop and the caregiver’s responsibly increases exponentially. Careful evaluation is needed to determine at what point professional care is necessary for the person with dementia. Placing a loved one in hospice or long-term care is a gut-wrenching decision. Too often, the decision is made only after the health of the primary caregiver is irreparably impacted.

During a partial eclipse, the shadow accentuates the brilliance of the remaining light. When a loved one has dementia, they still have the part of their being that shines through. I could see it in Jim’s eyes at times, or the way he raised his eyebrows, the warmth of his hand, the laughter, and tears. My most precious memory happened one night when I was preparing to leave the nursing home. I kissed him goodbye and said, “I love you.” From that sliver of light, he found the words to reply, “I love you too,” and I knew he meant it.

 

Copyright © April 2024 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Hope, Renewal, and New Life


This has been a busy week with quality family time. Between the early Easter celebration last Sunday, and lunch with my son and grandson, I was able to connect with most of my sons’ families. I saw three of my four grandchildren and both great-grandsons.

On Good Friday, we decided to have a music practice at my brother’s house. I picked up Mom to take her to practice. We worked on some new songs and set up a date to work on our final program for April.

After practice, Mom and I drove the winding, crooked road. A car popped over the hill, and I  was startled when a pickup flew past my car. He came dangerously close to hitting the oncoming car head on, and swerved back into our lane, missing the front of my car by inches.

It happened so fast that I didn’t have time to be afraid, but I was plenty angry that someone was so stupid as to pass on a double yellow line. I call him an “idiot” with a colorful adjective preceding it.

It was a reminder of how fragile life is. I told my mom, “Since we cheated death, today is the first day of the rest of our lives.”

After a stop at McDonald’s, we were walking up to her door. Mom said, “It would have been awful if someone would have had to call Harold and tell him you’d been killed in a car accident. I just don’t know what he would do without you.” Okay, I couldn’t stop laughing about her thinking it would be more of a tragedy for Harold to be left to fend for himself than for me to die in a wreck.

A near miss is a wakeup call that we need to seize each precious moment we have with our loved ones. No life is without adversity, and the older we get the more problems we face. Life can throw down a virtual gauntlet of challenges.

The biggest challenge of my life was Jim’s dementia. Throughout the ten-year span of his decline, each day had the potential of producing an unexpected crisis. Still, we had a lot of good, happy days. At first, we still took our trips to Colorado, and later spent time in Branson. Jim loved to travel, and at times life progressed on a semi-normal pace. As his abilities declined, we settled for ice cream at Dairy Queen and a walk in the park. Other times, we would drive through the countryside. This was full circle since when were first married, going for drives was our favorite cheap entertainment. Life is good if you want it to be.

Of course, we know how our story ended, and that brought another challenge to my life. Although the disease had taken Jim away from me a piece at a time, I had to adjust to the absence of his physical presence.

Jim always said that death was closing one door and opening another. Easter is a time that reminds us that death is trading our mortality for immortality. Our hearts are filled with hope and a renewal of our spirituality. 

Springtime is the time of new life. Trees bud out and blooms from flowering bushes release their fragrance on the breeze. Dormant plants spring forth from the earth, flower gardens, meadows, and road ditches and form a rainbow of vibrant color. Viviparous mammals begin to give birth to young ones. Birds and reptiles lay eggs and incubate them so they become live animals. When the conditions are perfect, morel mushrooms pop up and the hunt begins.

My mom has learned an abundance of wisdom in her 97 years of life. After giving her observation about my hypothetical death, I realize she made a valid observation. Yes, the sting of death falls heavily upon the loved ones left behind.

The best way to honor the loss of a loved one is to go on living a full, productive life. Cherish your memories, and find comfort in the love you gave and received. Face the future with faith, hope, and abundant love.

Copyright © March 2024 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Irish for the Day

As I drove to the post office Saturday morning, I noticed a lot of commotion around Ohio Street. It took a minute for my mind to click in and realized the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was about to begin. My biggest concern was whether I could get out of town without backtracking.

I didn’t stay for the parade because I had a busy day ahead of me. As I drove out of town, I ruminated about St. Patrick’s Days of the past.

At one time, our Alzheimer’s Walk Committee participated in the St. Patrick's Day parade. One year, we were brave enough to sign up for the bed races. We didn't have to build a bed since another group had loaned us their bed from the previous year. We put the smallest kid in our group in the driver’s seat and our fastest people to push. As our group huffed and puffed their way down Ohio Street, Ginger lost her shoe. The good news was that we won Second Place…the bad news was only two beds were in the competition that year.

During the parade, the announcers promoted our dance and auction coming up in the evening. As soon as the parade finished, we rushed to set up the silent auction and arrange the items chosen for the live auction. Our celebrity auctioneer, country music singer Leroy Van Dyke, always drew a crowd. Leroy jokingly said that it was amazing how much work a person could do when they volunteered.

In keeping with the holiday theme, gooseberry pie was always a premium auction item. Ted Distler, the Jefferson City Alzheimer’s Walk chair, and I, the Sedalia Walk chair, were always the final two bidders for the pie. Once our friendly competition ended with a successful bid, the winner sliced the pie and shared with the other. 

On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish. Now the big event of the day and evening is the Pub Crawl. Yes, Irish and drinking do tend to go together. My favorite alcoholic beverage is Irish coffee.

My thoughts turned to the tour of Ireland that my sister and I took in 2005. Going to Ireland had always been on my bucket list, and I was not disappointed! I loved the old castles, the Irish people, and the green, green grass. Throughout our travels in the Emerald Isle, I had many moments of déjà vu. The landscape, castle ruins, Cliffs of Moher, and ancient cemeteries with their scenic arches tugged at my heartstrings. I kissed the blarney stone, as if I needed a better gift of gab than I already have.

Our tour guide regaled us with stories about leprechauns and how these magical, wee creatures hold the key to the “luck of the Irish.” Leprechauns are tricksters, and the reason we wear green is to keep them from pinching us. Personally, I’ve only been pinched by people, with nary a leprechaun to be seen.

Yes, everyone wants to be Irish for a day—St. Patrick’s Day. I would rather be magically transported to Ireland for a day. 

As this St. Patrick’s Day comes to a close, I hope you’ve had a day filled with luck as abundant as the shamrocks in Ireland. Until next year, “May the road rise to meet you and the wind be always at your back.”

 

Copyright © March 2024 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Friday, March 15, 2024

Turn a Deaf Ear

 

Several years ago, I went to see my family physician for an earache. He told me I had an ear infection and sent some medicated drops home with me. The throbbing in my ear stopped when blood trickled down my neck. I called the doctor and told him about the new development. He assured me that I wasn’t going to bleed to death from my ear. (Guess he never saw the same westerns I had!) My eardrum had ruptured, and he said it would most likely heal on its own.

Once the incessant buzzing stopped, I figured I was good to go. I never noticed a problem until I took a hearing test as part of a workplace health fair. “You have a slight loss of hearing in your right ear,” the technician told me.

Eventually, I noticed that if someone spoke softly in my right ear it was the “wah wah wah” sound much like Charlie Brown’s teacher. It finally occurred to me that I was unintentionally turning a deaf ear.

 It’s annoying to have hearing loss in one ear, but it does make me stop to consider that at times turning a deaf ear is advantageous. “Turning a deaf ear” is an idiom for ignoring what another person says. When I was a caregiver for Jim, I learned to turn a deaf ear at times. 

·     Turn a Deaf Ear to Negativity: A caregiver has enough challenges without outsiders heaping negativity on them. Negative people sap precious energy that you will need to make all the decisions necessary to provide the daily care your loved one needs. There’s no better way to ruin a day than to listen to someone who finds fault with how you are handling the difficult choices you need to make.

·       Turn a Deaf Ear to Criticism:  There’s a lot of truth to the old saying that everyone is a critic. I’ve known a few people in my life that think criticizing others makes them look better. When a caregiver is doing her best, no one else has the right to criticize. If the job of caregiving is overwhelming and the best solution is to seek professional care, it becomes a family matter. When I made that difficult long-term care decision for Jim, I only cared what my kids and his mom had to say. Once we were in agreement, I turned a deaf ear to everyone else.

·       Turn a Deaf Ear to Self Doubt: As a caregiver, you need to learn to ignore that nagging voice in your head that constantly runs through the “should have—could haves.” Once you’ve made a caregiving decision, you need to stop doubting yourself. Self doubt is fraught with negative emotions: anxiety, indecision, depression, and guilt. I’ve known caregivers that had to seek psychological and pharmaceutical help. There’s no shame in taking care of your healthcare needs with professional guidance.

·       Turn a Deaf Ear to Gossip: When you are doing what is best for you and your loved one, don’t give credence to the opinion of someone who has not walked in your shoes. Here’s a helpful hint—no one has ever walked in your shoes but you! 

The good thing about turning a deaf ear is that you don’t actually have to be deaf in one ear. All it takes is a positive mindset to turn a deaf ear when necessary, but listen with both ears to trusted advice on best practices for caring for your loved one with dementia.

When you type alz.org into your browser, you will find answers to almost all the questions that you have about the disease, caregiving, or how to get involved in the fight to end Alzheimer’s. The 24/7 Helpline 800-272-3900 is prominently displayed at the top of the home screen.

When Jim was first diagnosed, I knew nothing about Alzheimer’s or dementia. Throughout my caregiving journey, I trusted the Alzheimer’s Association to steer me in the right direction, and they did.

Copyright © March 2024 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Thursday, February 29, 2024

This Old Car

 

When I was a kid, we lived in the Ozarks and the only music we ever heard on the radio was country music. I remember a song called “This Old House.” After I’d heard the song several times, I realized that the song wasn’t about a house at all, but about a human body.

Back in the day, you just figured things out on your own, but now we have the internet, and I was curious about the song. I found a treasure! Stuart Hamblen, the man who wrote the song told the story of finding a dilapidated log house while he was on a hunting trip in the Sierra Mountain range. The old house was falling down and when a dog came out of the house, Stuart went inside and found a man who had passed away. He wrote the song while outside the house, and many people thought the song was only about the old house, but Stuart says the song is about two houses. “…the other house, the mortal house that the maker of man has loaned to the man for such a short, short time.”**

Why did such a thought cross my mind? I was thinking about my old car, a 2010 Chevy Malibu. I bought the car new as my “retirement” car, and I’m still driving it 110,000 miles later. After all the nasty weather a few weeks ago, and after a drive down a country road, my car looked pathetic. It was making a loud noise, which I hoped was from the tires.

This car and I have traveled a lot of miles and been through a lot in the past thirteen years. I couldn’t help but compare myself to the car, which is definitely an upgrade from “This Old House.” We’ve both suffered some bumps and dings over the years. Fortunately, neither one of us have had any accidents. We have to recharge our batteries and change the oil regularly. We’ve had a few flat tires, and scraped up our fancy wheels. We are both a little worse for the wear, but I think we’re in pretty good shape for the shape we’re in.

Still, in my mind, I was a little worried about the noise…and I went online car shopping. I couldn’t find anything that really caught my eye. The prices on new vehicles are shocking, so I thought it might be much more feasible to give my car some TLC. My Malibu has been a dependable low-maintenance car and I couldn’t see taking a chance on finding another great vehicle.

During one of the recent warm days, I took my car through the carwash and saw the beauty of the red jewel color sparkle. It reminded me of the time I’d just washed my car and went to the Post Office. As I pulled in, this old gentleman told me, “That is the most beautiful car I’ve ever seen.” Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I like the looks of the car too.

I made an appointment to have an oil change and have the sound investigated. Yes, it was the tires. With an oil change and new front tires, we’re back in business.

If there’s a point to this story, it would be that for a car (or a body) to last, we need checkups and regular maintenance. Sometimes the noise (or pain) isn’t anything to worry about, but better safe than sorry. Here’s to hoping that my car’s engine (and my brain) keeps on clicking on all cylinders for many years to come.


**Find “This ‘Ole House – Story Behind the Song Told by Stuart Hamblen” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNzcGxl5nk8

Copyright © Feb 2024 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

#ENDALZ

Healthy Habits are Good for your Brain

 


During the past twenty years, I’ve followed Alzheimer’s research, and have had a front seat to many disappointments. Currently, I’m pleased that significant progress has been made and promising new treatments can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Many years ago when I served on the Alzheimer’s Chapter Board of Directors, I learned that a healthy lifestyle was the most effective way to delay the onset of age-related dementia.

Most of us blissfully move through life with confidence that our brains are clicking along like a well-oiled machine. Sure, we may not be able to multi-task as well as we could in our younger years. We also learn that stress can cause us to fumble around, make miscues, and have occasional mental glitches. Although these age-related changes can be concerning, as long as they don’t interfere with our daily life, we haven’t developed dementia.

Lifestyle changes are good for our bodies, our hearts, and our brains. The possibilities are endless, but I’ve listed seven changes that are within reach for most people.      

1.    Enough Sleep: I might as well start with the one that is my biggest challenge. I’ve become a night owl, but wake up around five or five-thirty in the morning. If I go to bed early, I toss and turn and stay awake later than if I just go to bed around midnight as usual. When I go to bed late, I can read for ten minutes and go to sleep. A short nap during the day helps me feel rested.

2.    Healthy eating habits: We all have our downfalls when it comes to eating. I’ve found through the years, that I can add fruit and vegetables to my diet on a regular basis and maintain a healthy weight. I’ve found that crash diets, are more like crash and burn diets. Yo-yo dieting is harder on your health than carrying a few extra pounds.

3.    Social Interaction: I think we all learned the lesson of the importance of social interaction during the pandemic lockdowns. We realized we needed to spend time with friends and family, and some of us need to feel that we are helping make the world better in our own small way. Volunteer work increases social interaction, provides learning opportunities, and helps us feel useful. 

4.    Stress Management: Most of us find a way to manage stress. Physical activity is often a good stress reliever. Hobbies are a great way to relax. Reading a good book can make your troubles seem small in comparison to the protagonist! My favorite stress reliever is playing my ukulele and singing.

5.    Stay Active: Physical activity improves memory and brain health while it strengthens bones and muscles. With a stronger body, you increase your capabilities of being able to perform daily activities. Other benefits of staying active include reducing anxiety and depression while improving your quality of sleep.

6. The New Math: Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and vascular dementia is the second most common type. Health conditions that contribute to vascular dementia are atherosclerosis (a buildup of plaque inside arteries), heart disease, and stroke. Along with a healthy diet, exercise, not smoking, and limiting alcohol, you need to watch your “numbers.” If lifestyle changes alone cannot improve your numbers, you may need to take medication to treat high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, or prevent blood clots.

7. Stimulate Your Brain: The phrase, “use it or lose it” comes to mind. I recently read an article that said lifelong learning is one of the secrets to a healthy lifestyle. Learning stimulates cognitive ability. Other ways to stimulate your brain are reading, working daily puzzles or crosswords, playing games that stretch your mind, or taking up a new hobby.

As we grow older, we have more health challenges. I like to think that no matter what ailments I have, I am luckier than many others I know.

Age is the number one risk factor for dementia. I have seven decades of information and trivia stored in my brain, and retrieving a pertinent piece of information might take a bit longer than it did when I was younger. Sure, I’ve slowed down, but I’m still moving forward.

Of all the healthy habits we can implement to improve our health, it is important to have a positive outlook on life. I like to focus on the activities I can do instead of the ones that I can’t. Although I’m older today than I was yesterday, I’m younger than I will be tomorrow.

 

Copyright © Feb 2024 by L.S. Fisher

http://earlyonset.blogspot.com

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