Sunday, October 31, 2021

Fighting the Doom and Gloom


Three days of gloomy skies and rain was hard on the body and soul. My body cried out for attention with the latest arthritic flare-up. My soul was depressed by the gray skies and lack of sunshine.

I can easily understand how dark days and darker nights could affect the mood of a person with mid-stage or late dementia. Caregivers find that “sundowning” creates additional challenges for a disease that demands extraordinary effort.


I took my dog outside in a whirlwind of rain. Halloween seemed to come a few days early with howling wind and sheets of rain forming ghost-like mist dancing under the dusk-to-dawn light.

The night was darker than usual since my solar lights had a few days without any solar to fuel them.


Between the rain and wind, my raincoat seemed inadequate. “If this is what October is like, I can’t imagine how cold winter is going to be,” I said to my husband. There you have it. Instead of enjoying fall colors as I usually do this time of year, I was dreading the days to come.


My battle plan was to open all the drapes, turn on lights, and listen to and/or read a book on my Kindle. I intended to watch TV for a while, but instead I listened to music and comedy on my phone.


Yesterday morning I stepped outside to a glorious sunrise. Well, it wasn’t a photo worthy event, but it certainly cheered me to see that golden orb shining through the trees. It stands as a reminder that no matter how dark our days on earth can be, the sun continues to shine.


My immediate future holds some trying times, but I really want to focus on the positive. I want to think about music, sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.


When life seems to be hopeless and gloomy, we need to look beyond the clouds and feel the hope and warmth of the steadiness of the sun.


Copyright © October 2021 by L.S. Fisher


Thursday, October 21, 2021

Stay Strong


Last year, I never bought the potted mums I usually put in the front yard, but I had three I’d saved in the garage from the year before. To my surprise, they bloomed. When they died late fall last year, I figured they were done. The pots sat outside the back door through the winter. The mums, of course, never developed green leaves so I dumped them out and put the pots away.


I was out walking my dog yesterday and I glanced over toward the small flower garden that we’d dug up in early spring. I did a double take, and there was a tiny mum blooming at the edge of the garden. I had discarded the plants because they were dead and ugly, yet one was strong enough to survive my bad treatment.


Have you noticed how some people seem to flourish no matter how badly life treats them? Others fall into despair at the first sign of adversity. It is a mystery as to how differently people cope with the challenges in life.


I just finished Kristin Hannah’s book The Four Winds. The story takes place during the depression and when the dust storms hit the Great Plains. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. Elsa and her kids finally headed west to California where they believed they would have a better life.


I couldn’t help but think of the song, “California Cotton Fields,” that Jim used to sing. While looking for a change of luck, they found broken dreams, and hardships beyond what they could have ever imagined. Broken dreams do not always mean broken spirits.


When tragedy strikes, we can often rebound and continue with our normal life…eventually. When we have daily hassles that try our patience and undermine our confidence, we might buckle beneath the weight of our burdens.


Caregiving is fraught with adversity. The daily stress of providing a safe and healthy environment for another human being is crushing at times. Compound that with loneliness, lack of sleep, and constantly feeling overwhelmed and you have a recipe for disaster.


What are some ways of coping with life when you are bombarded with problems? I don’t know how other people do it, but here are some things that worked for me:


1.      Ask for help. Whether I received help from family, friends, or professionals, I finally came to the realization that I couldn’t do it alone. The most valuable resource I found was my local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

2.      Join a support group. I was amazed at how much I learned during support group meetings. We exchanged ideas and I made new friends. Best of all, I learned from others and didn’t have to figure everything out on my own.

3.      Find a way to turn heartbreak into a positive. By becoming a volunteer, an advocate, and fundraising for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, I found a way to turn my passion into action. I gained a purpose, a mission, and felt the positive energy when I  focused on my small victories rather than my losses.

4.      Take care of yourself. When I was a caregiver, I spent so much time taking Jim to doctor appointments, that I often neglected my own health. Then, one day I realized that he depended on me and if I didn’t take care of myself, I couldn’t take care of him. I made an effort to etch out time to relax, regroup, and rejuvenate.


Be kind to yourself as well as to others. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes, but if we focus on the multitude of daily tasks we do right, we can be more forgiving of our occasional hiccups.


Think about the mistreated and discarded mum that blossomed into a beautiful flower. Sure, it is smaller than a pampered mum from a garden center, but it serves as proof that if we stay strong we can not only survive, we can thrive.


Copyright © October 2021 by L.S. Fisher


Monday, October 11, 2021

Thinking Outside/Inside the Box


“We have a delivery,” my husband told me. “It’s probably the box to return the wheelchair leg rests.” We had bought a wheelchair online and one of the leg rests wouldn’t lock into place. The company sent us a replacement, but they wanted the defective part returned to quality control.


“OK,” I said. “I’ll take the dog out and bring in the box.”


I opened the garage door and immediately called Harold. “You need to come out here and look at this.” Partially blocking one of our garage doors was a pallet of folded boxes. A pallet!


He wanted me to send a photo, but before I sent it, he thought to look on the security camera. The next two hours were a whirlwind of trying to get someone to come and pick up the pallet of boxes. First, we had to deal with the confusion that both the company that delivered and the wheelchair seller insisted we had received one box. Well, our shipping label was on one of the boxes used to protect the bottom. Yes, there was our box, all right.


The clouds gathered and rain threatened. After I texted my photo to the wheelchair company, they promised to take it off our hands…eventually.


When all else failed, my son dropped by and moved the boxes from in front of the door. Eric said, “No one will pick it up today.”


“I can’t even imagine how heavy it’s going to be once it gets rained on,” I said. Eric rolled the boxes to the shop before the rain started. Now, I started to worry that they would come to pick it up when we were gone.


So, the outside boxes were now inside and safe from the elements. The whole experience brought to mind thinking outside and inside the box.


When I was a caregiver, I had to think outside the box often. Each day represented getting a pallet of problems when you wanted/expected everything to go smoothly. Jim wandered off and finally we thought to put an alarm on the front door. Why just one door when we had four? That was the only one he ever used when he decided to take off down the road. Every day brought about the unexpected from Jim, and thinking outside the box becomes second nature. It’s not unusual for the usual response to fail.


Sometimes, it’s better to think inside the box. One of the best things a caregiver can do is have a routine. People with dementia respond well to routine. Following a schedule for grooming, toileting, meals, activities, and bedtime make life easier for the caregiver and the person with dementia.


Sometimes, problems seem unsolvable, but with persistence and a little help from family, friends, or professionals, you can often achieve a satisfactory resolution.


The pallet that was dropped off Friday was picked up on Monday, while we were home. The boxes were on their way to the rightful destination.


My husband received an email from quality control saying they sent us new leg rests. Really? Again? Another email from the receiving department wanted to know why we hadn’t used the “box” they sent us to return the defective leg rest. It was from the same person we talked to when we received the pallet, with our shipping label attached to an open box tightly wrapped inside the packing straps.


“Now what do we do?” I asked.


My husband’s reply was “Not our problem.”


That brings up the final solution to problems beyond your control: Don’t think about the box at all.

Copyright © October 2021 by L.S. Fisher