Saturday, March 26, 2011

For Every Action, There Is a Reaction

The last few weeks have reminded me that for every action there is a reaction. I’m not talking about Newton’s Third Law or even writing advice I’ve received over the years. No, I’m talking about everyday common occurrences.

Since I live in the country, I may be a little closer to nature than my city-dwelling friends. Last Saturday, I looked outside to see five cows grazing in my yard. I’m not afraid of cows, but noticed one of the “cows” was actually a bull so I stayed inside until the bull decided to butt my satellite dish. I reacted by yelling in my no-nonsense  voice, “Get out of here!” The big guy turned toward me and gave me a look that indicated he wasn’t scared of me at all and didn't budge until my brother-in-law chased them away.

A few days and a few cattle visits later, one-half of my satellite programming quit working. It seems that half my programming is on one satellite and the other half is on a different one. My luck, the half that was working had C-Span and info TV, and the half that was out of commission carried American Idol.

For $98, they would look at my dish or I could purchase a service contract for $6 per month with a five-month obligation. I agreed to the service agreement. My daughter-in-law walked in while I was finishing my conversation. She went outside and looked the dish over, tightened up a few loose screws and the TV came back on. “I don’t know how long it will last,” she said.

I couldn’t see cancelling the appointment so I asked about upgrading to DVR. I had wanted to do this for months, but hadn’t done it. The technician not only upgraded my system, he programmed in American Idol so that I didn’t have to miss it while I was at the Alzheimer’s Walk meeting that night.

He planned to come back Wednesday to bury the cable and mount the dish on a pole. Wednesday morning, I turned on the water to take a shower and the lukewarm water quickly turned cold. The water heater had quit. I called my service provider and they said they could come Monday. Monday? No hot water until Monday?

A friend of mine came over and pushed the reset button for the water heater, which was all it needed the last time, and sure enough, it started working again. In fact, the water was boiling hot. Apparently, the service company reacts more swiftly to boiling water than cold water. They agreed to come the next day.

The dish man hadn’t showed up by almost ten, so I called the 800 number to see what was going on. While I talked on the phone, I headed down the hallway and almost stepped on a snake. It didn’t matter to me that it was a harmless, ring neck snake—a snake is a snake. My reaction: I screamed, backtracked, and started telling the guy on the phone and my friend that a snake was IN MY HOUSE. If I’d been by myself, I might have just moved out until the snake was removed. The way it was, my friend put his foot on the snake to keep it out of the nearby bedroom, and I brought him an oven mitt to pick it up.

“How did he get in here?” I asked.

“Probably that little crack under your storm door.” I had left the entry door open. Oh, yeah, Jim installed that storm door after he had dementia. He wanted to angle it slightly, but couldn’t understand that he was angling the bottom of the door the wrong direction. I finally convinced him to leave it straight so that we had a small crack instead of big gap.

It’s been quite a week, this week. A lot of action and reaction going on, for sure. Today, I’m relaxing and watching the snow come down. It’s hard to believe I was wearing summer clothes earlier this week. My reaction to the snow? At least a snake won’t be out in this kind of weather.

Copyright © March 2011 by L. S. Fisher

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Set My Heart on It

With only twenty-four hours in a day, I don’t get nearly enough done. I move from project to project trying to keep one step ahead of the next deadline. I have so many things that I have my heart set on, that sometimes, I just mentally flip a coin to see which project can wait—or be cancelled.

This weekend, I hustled to get a bundle of stories to the post office, and headed to the lake to watch my youngest granddaughter cheer at a basketball game. It was fun to watch her shake her pom-poms and chant cheers through a megaphone. My grandson played with his cars on the bleachers where the grownups watched the game and, of course, the cheerleaders.

After lunch at a Mexican restaurant, I decided that while I was in the neighborhood, so to speak, I’d drop in on my brother at the nursing home and see my mom at her nearby apartment. I called my mom since she doesn’t just sit at home, in case someone wants to drop by. She assured me that she would be home soon. Rather than wait at her house, I decided to make use of the time to visit my brother, Donnie.

“My roommate needs help,” Donnie said when I walked through the door. His strokes have interfered with his speech, but he was sitting in his wheelchair, bright eyed. He certainly looked much better than he did a few weeks ago when I visited him in the hospital. At the hospital, he was so miserable that he just kept saying he wanted to die.

“Okay, I’ll go get someone,” I told him.

When I returned to the room, he looked at me and said, “Who are you?”

“I’m your sister, Linda,” I said. Donnie is nearly blind so I knew it wasn’t that he didn’t know who I was, he simply could not see me well enough.

“Oh,” he said. When the aide came in, she mentioned that Donnie’s light wasn’t working. This started him on a rant about everything that wasn’t working in his room: the nightlight, the door that wouldn’t shut on his closet, and his opinion of housekeeping for not fixing everything.

“I’ll tell them,” the aide said, making her exit when she realized Donnie was past teasing and had become angry.

“I can’t walk, can’t move my arms, and can’t fix the things that are wrong. They haven’t even turned my calendar,” he said. Sure enough, the calendar with giant numbers was still on February. I flipped the calendar and sat down on his bed.

Now that he was a little calmer, I told him how much better he looked. I asked him if he was eating and he started telling me about refusing to eat the “pre-chewed” food as he called it.

I knew what Donnie was talking about because Jim’s food was eventually “mechanically softened” and later pureed. It never looked appetizing, and I told Donnie how my niece referred to Jim’s “mystery meat” when we couldn’t determine what kind of meat it was.

“Are they giving you regular water now too?” I asked.

“Hell, yes,” he said. “I told them to leave that thickening out. That stuff just made me thirstier.”

That reminded me of when Jim strangled and choked too easily and his liquids were thickened. I always thought that his thirst could not be quenched and felt bad that he couldn’t have his big travel cup filled with ice water.

After our visit, I hugged Donnie and told him I wouldn’t stay away so long next time. “I want to spend more time with my family,” I said.

“Family is the most important thing,” he told me. “If it wasn’t for mom and my brothers and sisters, I would just give up.” He wiped tears from his eyes with his left hand, the one he uses the best.

By the time I left the nursing home, the soft rain had changed to a torrential downpour. I didn’t let the rain delay me from visiting my mom and merrily splashed through the puddles of water on her walkway. When I set my heart on it, a thunderstorm and downpour won’t even slow me down.

Copyright © March 2011 by Linda Fisher

Sunday, March 13, 2011

SuperMoon – Will it Be a Full Moon on Overdrive?

I remember having a discussion with a friend who thought I was crazy when I mentioned the full moon caused chaos at the nursing home.

“That’s an old wives’ tale,” he said. And he laughed at me.

“Hey, if you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who works in a nursing home,” I said. I’ve always been a skeptic about the moon’s influence on human behavior until Jim was a resident at a nursing home. No one had to tell me when the moon was full—it was obvious from the behavior. Residents were restless and agitated at a complete different level.

Okay, so I’ve done a lot of internet research and the scientific sites tend to scoff at the idea that the moon, full or otherwise, would influence behavior. As one site points out, the moon is there all the time whether the sun reflects off it or not.

Astrologers, not astronomers, think the March 19 SuperMoon may cause an increase in natural disasters. In fact, some think the influence of the approaching SuperMoon may have had something to do with the disaster in Japan. I’m not one to align myself with astrologists, so I’m not going to propose that the SuperMoon has anything to do with earthquakes, but I wonder if it will affect human behavior.

Life sometimes teaches us things that science can’t prove. While trolling around the internet, I came across something that makes sense to my practical side. It started with one person who posted that her sleep was disturbed during the full moon. She slept fine the rest of the month, but during the full moon, she could not sleep. Several other people reported the same problem.

Doesn’t this make sense? Scientific studies show that our sleep is disturbed when we have lights on in our bedrooms from TVs, clocks, cell phones, and all other electronic equipment. The less light, the higher quality our sleep is. At the nursing home, every room had a window. On full moon nights, moonlight would make the outside brighter than any other time of the month and disturb sleep. Maybe it was a cumulative effect on sleep building up to the full moon.

I don’t know about you, but I tend toward, well, a little lunacy when I’m sleep deprived. My reasoning skills are not as sharp, and I certainly lean toward my cranky side. If anyone scientifically charted my behavior, it might well ebb and flow with the moon’s fullness.

The moon will be closer than it has been in eighteen years. I know it’s going to disturb my sleep because it is supposed to be spectacular to see, and I want to see it.

You may be like my friend and most scientists, but before you scoff make note of the behavior of those around you. If nothing else, they may react to the weird looks you are giving them.

I can’t help but speculate that the SuperMoon might be like a full moon on overdrive. I believe people’s behavior will be—interesting. The SuperMoon will be something to behold for believers in the power of moon—and for people watchers everywhere.

Copyright © March 2011 by L. S. Fisher

Monday, March 7, 2011

Nasal Spray Vaccine

Those of us who have been following Alzheimer’s research have learned to listen to any news with optimistic caution. The latest research at Tel Aviv University shows promise for a nasal spray that will work on stroke as well as Alzheimer’s.

Is this a case of everything old is new again? When Jim first developed dementia, I read every piece of information I could about research. I checked out drug trials and tried to get him enrolled in an Alzheimer’s vaccine study. I remember reading that best way to introduce a vaccine into the brain was through nasal spray. No, I don’t remember exactly what year it was, but Jim was living at home so it must have been at least eleven years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about this study. Using animal models, researchers discovered that the drug introduced through nasal spray stimulated the body’s own immune system to repair brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s and strokes related to Alzheimer’s. The numbers being thrown around are that this research drug could help 80% of people with Alzheimer’s. This news would be more exciting if the drug was not so far from being available at the local pharmacy. In fact, the drug has not been used on humans.

Can this be the breakthrough to unlock the mystery of Alzheimer’s? I certainly hope it is. Just like the vaccine studies I tried to get Jim into more than a dozen years ago, this drug shows promise of reversing the damage caused by the disease.

Does anyone else find it a strange coincident that the acronym for the Tel Aviv University is TAU? It first caught my eye when I saw a report that began “TAU researchers develop a vaccine…” The hallmarks of Alzheimer’s are the plaques and tangles that form in the brain. Most research targets removing the beta-amyloid plaques. At first, I thought the statement meant these researchers were concentrating on the tangles which are made up of twisted fibers of tau.

With the woeful funding the USA provides for Alzheimer’s research, it is not surprising that the most exciting news to come along in several years was from Israel. The lack of funding for Alzheimer’s research means that many of the best and brightest USA researchers concentrate on better-funded studies.

Only time will tell whether the vaccine will be the long awaited Alzheimer’s cure, or whether it will be another disappointment to the millions who wait, and wait, and wait. What are they waiting for? They are waiting for that very first Alzheimer’s survivor.

No disease should be without hope. I know that I desperately searched for a ray of hope for the bleak prognosis Jim was given. Why have researchers found effective treatments for AIDS, many types of cancer, heart disease and other diseases, but come up empty with Alzheimer’s? A lot has to do with the priorities and a serious commitment to stopping a killer disease.

Alzheimer’s has a reputation of being a disease for the elderly, and we all know that no one is going to live forever. Early onset Alzheimer’s and related dementias affect people younger than age sixty-five—sometimes decades younger. Regardless of age, Alzheimer’s is a life-altering disease that requires a serious commitment to caregiving and palliative care that can stretch over twenty years.

Today, Alzheimer’s is a fatal, irreversible brain disease. The 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer’s and 79 million boomers at risk should be encouraged by the TAU study. I believe that eventually a study is going to come along that can stop Alzheimer’s in its insidious tracks. Is it this one? Maybe, maybe not.

Alzheimer’s is a worldwide problem, and every country in the world, including the USA, should participate in finding a solution. At a time when our National Institute of Health funding is on the budget chopping block, we must insist that Alzheimer’s research move forward.

Copyright © March 2011 L. S. Fisher