Sunday, April 24, 2011

Predicting the Outcome

One of my favorite shows, The Mentalist, is centered on a man with an extraordinary ability to predict human behavior. In his job as a consultant, Patrick Jayne the mentalist, always downplays his extraordinary ability as being based on observation. Jayne denies that he has any psychic abilities and maintains they do not exist in the real world. His uncanny abilities often leave others shaking their heads and wondering how he really does it.

A lot of people, in general, and psychics in particular claim to have the inside track on predictions. Most psychic predictions are so general that many events can be interpreted as fulfilling the prophecy.

One of my favorite psychic predictions involved Dolly Parton. The prediction was that she would fall in love with a 300-pound professional wrestler, write a song called “Headlock on My Heart,” and feature her sweetheart in a music video. This is a detailed and specific prediction that set the psychic up for failure. Well, Dolly Parton has a sense of humor and when she read this wild prediction, she wrote the song and asked Hulk Hogan to star in the video—complete with fake wedding between Dolly and “Starlight Starbright.”

Most of us listen to predictions on a daily basis. Predictions may be minor, but we may plan our wardrobe based on the weather forecast, how far we are willing to travel on vacation based on the price of gasoline, whether to change our retirement fund investments based on the stock market, or whether we want to watch reality TV if our favorite is voted off.

Most important predictions concern our health. Through no fault of our own, we may be susceptible to certain diseases based on our genetic makeup. Science has made it possible to predict accurately a person’s health outcome of certain diseases through genetic testing.

The APOE gene has long been connected to Alzheimer’s. Which version you have of the APOE gene can mean that you are twenty times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s (2 copies of APOE-4) or less likely to develop Alzheimer’s (2 copies of APOE-2). Of course, any person may have any combination of APOE genes and most people do not know their genetic makeup and cannot predict whether they are more likely, or less likely, to develop Alzheimer’s. The APOE gene is one of the genes that breaks down plaques.

The hallmarks of Alzheimer’s are two proteins—amyloid beta (causes plaques ) and tau (which causes tangles). Science is beginning to come together to get to the cause of the plaques and tangles.

• Chris Dobson, Cambridge University, discovered that slight genetic adjustments to amyloid beta protein could make it more soluble. Insoluble proteins cause plaques.
• Researchers at Brown University have found that the cell process works in diseased brains but is overwhelmed by misfolded amyloid beta proteins.
• Dr. Jeffrey Kelly, Scripps Research Institute, announced the discovery of several genetic mutations that make people more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease. These genes are more commonly associated with cholesterol metabolism and inflammation.

As the research comes together, the University of California announced a more accurate method of using MRIs and a neuropsychological assessment to predict whether a person will develop Alzheimer’s. The goal of the research is develop a method to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in an early stage before symptoms appear.

When we develop a disease, the crucial prediction is the prognosis. Without a breakthrough, predicting the outcome of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is unfortunately accurate.

Early detection makes a difference in a hopeful outcome for most diseases. With scientific breakthroughs from many different sources, Alzheimer’s may someday be a disease where early detection means successful treatment.

Copyright © L. S. Fisher April 2011

Ridley, Matt, Connecting the Pieces of the Alzheimer’s Puzzle. April 2011.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Power of Failure and Rejection

Last week I attended the Missouri Writers’ Guild Just Write Conference and coordinated the pitch sessions. For those of you who are not writers, pitch sessions are when authors try to sign with an agent or editor who can sell their books to major publishers. Ten agents listened to seven minute pitches from 9 AM to 4 PM.

Some of the authors had worked on their novels for years and in seven minutes tried to convince a professional that their book could be a success. This process is so important to the authors that they are understandably nervous.

“My goal is to not throw up on my shoes,” one author said. I’m happy to report she came out of the session with clean feet and a smile on her face.

Many just came out shaking their heads no. “She didn’t like it,” or “She doesn’t know where she can sell the book,” were some of the remarks. These authors have a chance of success because they did not let the fear of failure, or rejection, keep them from pursuing their dreams.

One young author, Christine Karsh, pitched to four different agents and three requested the first thirty to fifty pages of her young adult novel. She was ecstatic! Taking a chance on rejected may have landed her a New York agent.

Some of the best authors are never published because they are afraid of rejection. Every time I submit a story, I realize it may be rejected. Recently, my local writers’ guild announced the stories to be published in this year’s anthology. Of course, some of the stories and poetry had been rejected. Some authors were angry, one poet said she felt “broken,” and another author just laughed and said, “It’s hard to know what the judge is going to like.”

At our writers’ guild, we use a positive attitude about successes and failures. Often, the same people report both.

“One of my stories won a prize,” I’ll sometimes say when we report our successes.

“Any failures to report?” the president asked at our last meeting.

“I do,” I said. “The story I submitted to Mysteries of the Ozarks was gently rejected.”

I’ve been rejected many times as a writer. If I didn’t take a chance on being rejected, I would never have been published or won any prizes. I have had stories rejected by a publication and resubmitted them to contests and won more in prizes than the publication paid.

Sometimes our fear of failure can hold us back from meeting our most basic needs in life. During this time of high unemployment, some people have their job applications rejected so many times that they have become so discouraged they quit looking. When I was out of work in the early 80s, the situation was the much the same as it is now. I went on job interview after job interview until I successfully landed a job at an electric cooperative. I wound up getting a much better job than had I been hired at one of the places that rejected me.

When I became Jim’s caregiver, I worried about failure. I was plagued with doubts. Would I be able to take care of him? Could I make the best decisions for him? Would I be able to handle years of overwhelming responsibility? I battled with a sense of failure when I finally had to place Jim in long-term care. I felt like it was my fault when Jim was kicked out of the nursing home. If I hadn’t let icy roads keep me away, would I have been able to ward off the dark mood that led up to the incident? My biggest doubts were on this date six years ago when Jim died. Did I fail to find some treatment that would have made a difference?

In my heart I know that everything was done for Jim that could be done, and I’m glad that I didn’t let fear of failure make me give up. Realistically, I knew we were not going to successfully stave off the ultimate destiny of our dementia journey, but it didn’t keep me from wanting to make that journey as happy as it could be.

Every morning when we wake up, we can decide whether we want to play it safe and not take any chances, or we can make the most of our God given talents. If we do not let fear of rejection and failure hold us back, we have unleashed the ultimate power tool for success.

Copyright © April 2011 by L.S. Fisher

Monday, April 11, 2011

The World is Blossoming!

Apparently, there’s nothing quite like a ninety degree day in April to make the blossoms burst out in full glory. Looking out my patio doors just beyond the indestructible artificial plant on the patio table, redbuds provide a splash of color against the shades of springtime green.

Going to pick up my paper, I first noticed tiny delicate flowers on my lawn, right beside the wild garlic that has popped up since the last mowing. And, oh, yes, the dandelions are in their brilliant yellow stage pretending to be a normal flower. The Shasta daisies in my flower garden have opened up. The scent from the two lilac trees wafts along the breeze and I couldn’t resist stopping and leaning in for whiff of their fragrance.

It’s easier to be optimistic when butterflies flit from blossom to blossom and when birdsongs fill the air. Blustery winds and bone chilling cold seem like only a shadow left from a bad dream. God pauses to smile from fluffy clouds against a cerulean sky.

No season is perfect. Spring is a time of thunderstorms, tornadoes, pesky insects, and reptiles. April is a time of sad anniversaries, those dates that are firmly ingrained in my mind as a time of nearly unbearable loss. In a week, I will pause and remember Jim on the six-year anniversary of our journey’s end. Marking the day I knew he would never again sit on the front porch with a cup of coffee and smell lilacs on a sunny April morning.

I have not been too ambitious today, in fact, I’m resting up from my weekend at the Missouri Writers’ Guild conference. I would have slept later this morning, but before she left for work, Shawna had taken pity on my cat and let her come upstairs. By seven o’clock, Katrina could no longer contain herself, jumped up into my bed, and immediately tried to lie down on my head.

I had spent the morning catching up on email and Facebook. About noon, I decided to relax with my library book. Reading made me sleepy, so rather than take a nap, I decided to go outside for a while.

When I walked around the yard, it was easy to feel the essence of family that used to live here—Jim, his mom and dad. My brother-in-law, Terry, was outside and we looked over the garden spot and talked about the plants that he would plant in the garden.

“Just let me know what you would like me to plant,” he said.

“Well, I really liked those peppers last year, and you know I love tomatoes. Oh, and cucumbers, and zucchini,” I said. My taste buds were singing louder than the birds while I talked about fresh garden vegetables.

“And I’ll plant some lettuce,” Terry said, “for salads and wilted lettuce.”

“I’m thinking about planting some herbs,” I said, “in a container.” I can’t quite see me weeding and tilling in the evenings after I get home from work.

“We planted herbs here,” he said, pointing to the outer edge of the garden. “A few of them are coming up from last year. Here’s fennel, garlic, and chives. I don’t know if any of the other herbs will come up again this year.” We turned over a few dirty, faded plastic markers from last year. Terry had left the markers because, like me, he wasn’t sure if he could identify the herbs without them being in little plastic bottles plainly labeled.

While we walked around the yard, we talked about the mulberry tree, gooseberry vines and blackberry vines, and then I noticed the big may apples. “Hey, I bet mushrooms are up,” I said.

“Ginger didn’t find any yesterday,” he said.

As I walked back through the door to finish my inside work, I was smiling. This would be a great day to just sit outside on the porch and look at all the blooms, butterflies, and signs of spring. Sure, I still miss Jim, but I know in my heart Jim would not have wanted me to waste a minute of this gorgeous day thinking sad thoughts.

Copyright © April 2011 by L. S. Fisher

Thursday, April 7, 2011

VA REACHing out to Caregivers

The Department of Veterans Affairs is pleased with the success of their REACH VA pilot program to help caregivers of veterans with Alzheimer’s and plans to expand the program nationally. By relieving caregiver stress, the veterans receive better care at home.

The REACH program provided caregivers:

• Twelve in-home visits and telephone counseling sessions
• Five telephone support group sessions
• A Caregiver Guide with forty-eight behavioral and stress topics
• Safety and behavior management education
• Training for health and well being

The caregivers who had the benefit of these program reported they were less depressed, not as frustrated, and were less burdened on a daily basis with caregiving duties. Caregivers also reported fewer dementia-related behaviors with the veteran under their care.

I applaud the VA for recognizing the benefits of taking care of the caregiver. If your loved one with dementia is a veteran, you should check into the REACH VA program.

If your loved one is not a veteran, please contact your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter. They, too, provide training and support for caregivers.

The five core services of an Alzheimer’s Association chapter:

1. Information and Referral
2. Care consultation
3. Support Groups
4. Safety Services
5. Education

Details on these services can be found at

As a caregiver, my lifeline was the partnership I formed with my local chapter. Through their educational programs I gained confidence as a caregiver, knowing I had the benefit of expert knowledge. I received respite funds to help defray the cost of in-home care. At support group I learned from the facilitators and from the experiences of other caregivers. Through my local chapter I registered Jim with Safe Return. I pored over every newsletter the chapter sent out to learn about new treatments and just to find out what was going on with other caregivers.

The VA has taken a giant step in the right direction to REACH out to caregivers. Visit to learn more about this program.

Caring for a person with dementia can be overwhelming. The health and wellbeing of the caregiver is crucial to keep our loved ones at home as long as possible. By knowing and using the resources available in your community, you will be a better caregiver.

Copyright © April 2011 L. S. Fisher