Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Broken Survivors

As I brought in groceries from my car, I looked like a bag lady. I carried as many bags as I could to cut down on the number of trips from the garage to the kitchen. Yesterday, I juggled four bags into the house and prepared to set them on the counter. I manhandled the gallon of milk and a sack of cans onto the counter. I lifted the lighter bag with a carton of eggs in it and prepared to set it beside the other bags. The plastic bag slipped out of my hands and the eggs fell to the floor.

I heard a distinct splat and knew that some of the eggs had prematurely met a sad end. I picked up the carton and at first glance, they all looked fine. One by one, I plucked the eggs out of the carton and examined them. Of the eighteen eggs, fourteen were broken on the bottom, but four had survived unscathed.

The eggs all suffered the same disaster and all the eggs were fragile. It seems to me that the fate of the eggs is a life lesson. Not one single person makes it through life without catastrophe.

Your struggles are different from mine. Your heartaches, failures, insecurities, relationships, health problems, and worries are different. Everything that happened in your life—good and bad—made you the unique person you are. Your ability to overcome adversity determines whether you are a survivor and not a victim.

I’ve noticed that ninety-nine things can go right, but the one thing that goes wrong will haunt me. I can remember how hyped I was when the Alzheimer’s Association chapter office decided to give Alzheimer’s Anthology of Unconditional Love to our state legislators. I had collected stories from caregivers and persons with dementia, and the chapter staff chose the best stories to include in the book. I spent about a year on the project and invested my energy into editing these heart-felt stories.

I was recognized on the floor of the Missouri house and received a House Resolution from my representative. What should have been one of the happiest days in my life was ruined when a fellow advocate met me in the hallway. “If my chapter hadn’t told me to give away this book, I wouldn’t have because…” She went on to say something that wasn’t true. I tried to show her where she was mistaken, but she wasn’t interested in what I had to say. She had already made up her mind and didn’t even hear me. That one negative comment stung, and I came close to deciding in that moment that I wasn’t going to publish any more books.    

It’s obvious that this one negative Nelly did not change the trajectory of my life. I overcame my self-doubt and began blogging shortly after this experience. The day I started my blog, I thought long and hard before pushing that “publish” button.

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome if you want to leave the past behind is self-doubt. We all fail and fall short of our aspirations. If you notice someone who apparently leads a charmed life, just know that appearances can be deceptive. Survivors are often broken people who pick up the pieces and glue them back together. Human survivors may look fine on the outside, but inside, they hurt from unhealed wounds.

I cracked one of those “survivor” eggs into the skillet this morning. The egg looked perfect on the outside, but the yolk was broken and it was scrambled on the inside.

Copyright © February 2019 by L.S. Fisher

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Silver Alert

I had so many events on my calendar this week that I was on the verge of overload meltdown. I had appointments, two meetings that I needed to prepare for, a luncheon I couldn’t attend because of a conflict with the other two meetings, a conference call, and music practice.

The weather was fine on Monday, one appointment finished, check. On Tuesday, due to a predicted ice storm, one of the Thursday meetings was cancelled, check.

Wednesday, the ice came. Every tree, shrub, and blade of grass turned to silver. I couldn’t step out of the door because of solid ice. I had taken a hard fall on the ice several years ago, so safety first! My dog had to stay within the bounds of her 25-foot leash. She slid on the concrete drive and gingerly stepped on the grass. Each blade was an ice-covered prong that affected her balance and distracted her from her daily routine.

Wednesday night, the weather alert radio went off. In addition to our ice alert, severe thunderstorm warnings were issued. Before long, we had high winds, pouring down rain, thunder and lightning. This is Missouri after all. Another meeting cancelled for Thursday, check. Conference call and luncheon cancelled, check, check. Practice cancelled for Friday, check.

Thursday morning, the power went out for a few hours. After daylight, I noticed the tree in the front yard was mostly laying on the ground. The sun came out for a few minutes and the ice, though treacherous, turned our yard into a silver wonderland. Since my responsibilities had been cancelled for the day, I read, played my computer game, and took a nap. Time for myself, check.

Although in the past, I often ignored weather alerts, it seems that our meteorologists are more accurate now. In this case, the prediction of ice, our silver alert, was spot on.

Weather isn’t the only thing that can be predicted with accuracy. Silver alerts for missing, vulnerable adults will be needed throughout the United States. Six out of ten people with dementia wander, and Jim was one of those who seemed to be seeking something that was in a different place than where he was at the time.

Indicators that predict wandering: a person who paces, exhibits repetitious behavior, forgets how to find familiar places, is gone longer than necessary when going for a walk or driving, gets anxious when in crowded stores or malls, or keeps looking for an undefined object.

I know that when Jim wandered off, there was a fine line between checking where he usually went and panicking because I couldn’t easily find him. Everyone in our neighborhood knew to call me if they saw Jim walking alone. We installed alarms on the door, enrolled him in Safe Return, and tried to be vigilant at all times, but he still managed to wander off. He wandered off in an airport, Silver Dollar City, a mall, from a cabin on vacation, and other places too numerous to mention.

You should look no more than fifteen minutes before you enlist professional help. I notified security at the mall and at Silver Dollar City. If no official security is available, call 911 and file a vulnerable adult missing persons report. The authorities will help you find your loved one and can issue a silver alert. If your loved one is enrolled in the Medic Alert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®, you should notify them at 800-625-3780.

When you are aware of a Silver Alert, share the information on social media. The more people who are looking, the more likely the missing person will be found safely. Silver Alerts have a high success rate!

If you are a caregiver, it is easy to be overwhelmed with the responsibility of looking after the safety of your loved one. Squeeze in some precious time for yourself. It is amazing how one day, one hour, or even thirty minutes can re-energize your body and spirit.

Copyright © February 2019 by L.S. Fisher