Thursday, April 28, 2016

One Person Can…

I spent the weekend at the BWM State Conference with my Business Women of Missouri sisters. I always come away from these conferences energized and with new, fresh, or possibly refreshed, ideas. One such refreshed idea came during an organizing session.

Organizing presentations have a way of highlighting my inadequacies. It’s not that I don’t know the basics of organization, or even that I don’t follow some of them, but I’m an out-of-sight-out- of- mind person. I use To-Do lists, but there’s nothing like seeing a pile of unfinished paperwork to motivate me. The speaker distributed a test I had taken before that demonstrated how much multitasking slows down our work. I am the queen of multitasking…to the point that I get a lot of things done, but nothing finished.

One trick to avoid multitasking: set a timer and work on projects in blocks of time without those pesky time-wasting interruptions. Great idea! I started this blog post, set my timer for 30 minutes and went straight to work. I stopped the timer to go fill my glass with ice water. Reset. Typed a few lines and the phone rang. Unexpected problem I could only partially resolve. Conversation over. Reset. So, this method isn’t working so well for me so far.

Each BWM president chooses an inspiring theme that our group uses throughout the year as motivation. They are always great themes, but President Sharron has chosen a theme that speaks to each of us individually and inspires accountability. Her theme, “Just One Woman Can,” opens up a realm of possibilities.

We often underestimate the difference we can make as individuals. Being an Alzheimer’s volunteer and advocate, I realize that I can make a difference. You can make a difference too!

One person can…

a)      Support Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Can’t walk? You can still help by sponsoring a walker. Dorothy Ream wasn’t able to walk, but she used to call up all her friends and ask them to pledge any amount no matter how small. She annually raised over $1,000 to support our local walk.
b)     Write a Letter or Send an E-mail. You can write a letter to your senator or representative on the state and national level to support Alzheimer’s research and legislation. Let them know providing services for families and finding a cure for Alzheimer’s is important to you. Share your story! Call your local chapter for information on current legislative issues.
c)      “Hug” a Caregiver. Providing around the clock care for a loved one leaves a person drained and stressed. The caregiver often needs some TLC too! Hugs come in many forms, especially random acts of kindness—greeting cards, flowers, casseroles, performing a household chore for the caregiver, or mowing the grass.
d)     Learn the Facts. You can stay informed by signing up for email updates from the Alzheimer’s Association. Attend educational programs offered by your local chapter. Ask for brochures or pamphlets to address specific problems. Be sure to get information from reliable sources. Knowledge is power when dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.

If you think of these suggestions as a To-Do List, you see that it is only a beginning. These four items are within everyone’s reach, but you are the only one that knows what you can do to add to the list. It is personally rewarding to know that you can make a difference.

I saw a graphic a few days ago of a piece of paper and the only thing written on it was, “Write a To-Do List.” I laughed when I saw it, but you do have to begin at the beginning, after all. Checking off the “done” items is a visual reminder of the power each of us holds within our grasp. What one person can do is limited only by imagination and motivation.  
Copyright © April 2016 by L.S. Fisher

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lost and Found

When I left for the Alzheimer’s Forum in D.C., I decided to hide some of my electronics. There’s no use in making life easier for a pesky burglar who might try to make a dime off my personal property.

I suppose if my PC was stolen, I could buy a new one. More important to me are the external drives that hold my photos and data files. I took one camera with me and hid the other. Also, before I travel, I lighten my purse. There’s no point in taking all my credit cards or gift cards. Heaven forbid that a thief would snatch my purse and abscond with my library card.

If you are going to hide something, even in a house as big as this one, you have to tuck away valuables somewhere other than the usual places: bathroom cabinets, back of underwear drawer, etc. My bad that I didn’t write down the creative hidey-holes I found. After all, I was going to be gone for nearly a week, and my mind was going to be spinning like a Texas tornado on a sultry summer day.

Sure enough, I spent an action packed time in D.C. Being around caregivers and persons living with the disease flooded my heart with memories. The Alzheimer’s forum was emotionally draining this year because of the timing. April 5 was Jim’s homecoming from Vietnam. It was a special day for us, and we always celebrated.

Then, the trip home seemed more grueling than usual. I really had no complaints other than the plane ride was a little bumpy, and we landed in a forty mile-an-hour wind. I’m not nervous about flying at all, but I did breathe a small sigh of relief when the plane stopped, and the flight attendant said, “Ta-da!” By the time I picked up my car and drove home, it was bedtime and I was exhausted.

After I caught up on my rest, it was time to gather up my hidden treasures. I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I had hidden my camera. I kept returning to a place where I thought I’d hidden it, only to come up empty. As I wandered aimlessly through the house, I saw something that triggered my memory and suddenly knew where it was.

Three days later, I remembered all the cards I’d taken out of my purse. After a moment of sheer panic, I re-checked the place where I thought I’d hidden my camera, now looking for something smaller. Whew! I could mentally check off the last item on my lost and found list.

I couldn’t help but think about another April anniversary. Eleven years ago, we lost Jim. That loss was so great that even though my mind knew it was coming, my heart wasn’t ready. As time ticks by today, I can’t help but think about those last moments of holding Jim’s hand, playing his favorite songs, and watching the light go out of his eyes. In the early morning hours of April 18, he left us.

Anger was the emotion that surprised me the most when Jim died. I was so angry that this horrible disease happened to him, to us, to our family. I was furious that he had lost ten years of being Jim before the disease took life itself from him.

I couldn’t stay angry forever, and eventually I found peace. I knew that given the choice, Jim would not have wanted to live the last decade of his life lost in the world of dementia. He would have much rather have spent the last years of his life strumming his guitar, fishing, playing with our grandkids, and camping out at Moraine Park in the Rocky Mountain National Park. He would have preferred going out in a blaze of glory.

Jim was lost to this world, but I rediscovered my memories of him. You might say that I found them. As for Jim, I believe he found that cabin in the corner of Glory Land he used to sing about, and he walks a well-worn path to his favorite fishing hole.

Copyright © April 2016 by L.S. Fisher

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Sea of Purple

Kathy Siggins, Linda Fisher, Sarah Harris  
I spent most of last week at the Alzheimer’s Advocacy Forum where every meeting and activity was virtually a sea of purple. I was joined by 1,199 other determined, and purple clad, advocates at our nation’s capital to  continue the fight for Alzheimer’s.

The forum runs like a well oiled machine and with this being my sixteenth forum, I knew what to expect. Mostly, I know to expect the unexpected: the moments that catch me off-guard opening up a forgotten memory; the personal stories; the hopes and fears of new advocates; the complete charm of a lovely woman in the early stages of the disease.

Each year, I meet new people and get to spend time with friends from other parts of the country that I see annually at the forum. The magical days of the forum are three musketeer time. My friends Sarah Harris, Kathy Siggins, and I spend as much time together as possible. It almost seems that we finish conversations we started the year before. As Sarah said, “In one way it doesn’t seem like a year, but in another way it seems much longer.”

Kathy and I did the tourist attractions Saturday afternoon and Sunday until aching feet drove us

indoors to relax and wait for Sarah’s arrival. Sarah was at a disadvantage this year with her broken ankle, but she managed to keep up with a handy-dandy scooter.

Sarah and I are ambassadors so we started a little early with the ambassador lunch and program. She and I discovered parts of the hotel we never knew existed. We made our way around on service elevators that opened into hallways leading to a bevy of unmarked doors. We soon learned to just keep opening them until we found the meeting room for the next session.

The forum officially began with the roll call of the states. This year those of us presenting our state’s accomplishments entered the room with much fanfare, following a band and waving our state flags.

The National Alzheimer’s dinner was special for Missouri Advocates this year for two reasons. First, Senator Blunt received a humanitarian award for advancing research funding for Alzheimer’s. He made us proud with his impassioned support during his acceptance speech.

The second reason for Missouri Advocates to celebrate was when our own Pat Etienne, along with the Early-Stage Advisory Group, received the Advocate of the Year Award.

Of course, the highlight of the conference is always Capitol Hill day. Twelve hundred determined people wearing purple sashes draw a lot of attention. This year, we brought three issues to the attention of our legislators: (1) a request for a $400 million increase in Alzheimer’s research, (2) co-sponsors for the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act estimated to save an amazing $692 million over the next ten years and (3) the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA).

I found out line dancing did not prepare me for the amount of walking required to go from the bus up the hill, back and forth from the Senate offices, where we visited Senators Blunt and McCaskill, to the other side of the Capitol to visit Congresswoman Hartzler’s office, and back again for the Senate Hearing.

I was reminded of the Princess and the Pea when I discovered a tiny ridge inside my most comfortable boots after putting several miles on my feet. Just when I thought I couldn’t take another step—it was time to go back to the bus stop.

Alzheimer’s is a scary disease, and honestly, I think that most legislators “get it.” They know we have to get a handle on this expensive disease or it’s going to bankrupt Medicaid and Medicare when we boomers get a few more years on us. I don’t want to spend my declining years not knowing my children and grandchildren.

On the elevator at the Marriott Wardman Park, a lady looked at my purple “Alzheimer’s Association” sash and said, “Your group is so impressive. You are enthusiastic and really make a statement. Thank you for being here.”

I’m glad I could be there, but I’ll be even happier when it is no longer necessary!

Copyright © April 2016 by L.S. Fisher