Saturday, September 30, 2023

The Ten Signs


 Several years ago, a friend and I went to see Bill Engvall in Columbia. As I neared the venue, I saw people holding signs, and I said, “Oh, look. There are protesters in front of the building.”

 When I was closer I could read the signs, and they said, “Here’s Your Sign.” Well, at that moment I wondered what it was a sign of that I hadn’t figured that out before I read the signs.

Life is filled with signs and clues. We might read daily horoscopes to see what the day holds in store. 

Signs are everywhere, including ten signs of Alzheimer’s disease.


1.   Memory loss that disrupts daily life. The most common sign of Alzheimer’s disease is short-term memory loss. Often old friends will not realize someone has dementia because they can remember in detail something that happened thirty years ago. “There’s nothing wrong with his memory,” one of Jim’s cousins told me. They had been talking about the old days, and Jim had perfect recall. What his cousin didn’t notice was that Jim couldn’t remember recent events no matter how important. 

2.   Challenges in planning or solving problems. Forgetting how to complete tasks that you once knew is one of the obvious signs. Jim was always mechanically inclined and could fix just about anything. After dementia affected his reasoning, he tore apart a vacuum sweeper and couldn’t put it back together. He tore into a VCR with the same results. The man that planned and built two homes couldn’t figure out how to measure the well house for siding.

3.   Difficulty completing familiar tasks. One day I asked Jim to make a grocery list for me. He took a pen and paper, and I started telling him what we needed. He wrote a few items on the paper and then told me he didn’t want to make the list. I picked it up to finish and noticed that although he had printed letters on the sheet, some of them didn’t make words. I remember he had written “taper powels” for “paper towels.”

4.   Confusion with time or place. Jim often asked me what the date was or the day of the week. Reading a calendar became too difficult for him. One time during a doctor’s visit, they asked him what season it was, and he didn’t know. He couldn’t answer the question  from multiple choice or clues. He also didn’t know what town he was in, only that he was at a doctor’s office.

5.   Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. Jim had always been a reader, and we visited the bookstore on a regular basis. I began to notice that he bought several copies of the same book. I finally noticed that at night when he was reading his book, he wasn’t turning the pages. He couldn’t follow the storyline of a book or a show on TV . He watched To Hell and Back so many times that we replaced the VCR movie three times. He taped (or tried to) every Walker Texas Ranger TV show.

6.   New problems with words in speaking or writing. Jim had aphasia and eventually quit speaking except for rare occasions. At first, he occasionally printed something, but after about five years, he could only write his name—and his signature changed, with some of the letters in cursive and others printed. 

7.   Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Jim was constantly looking for objects, but with his limited speech, he would say, “Right here, but I can’t find it.” Sometimes I could figure out what he was trying to find, and other times, I just helped him “look” because I had no idea what he had lost.

8.   Decreased or poor judgment. Jim became the telemarketer’s best friend. He didn’t understand what they were trying to sell and would agree to buy anything. I had to cancel Dish channels, tickets to charity events, and extended warranties. Some of the people were easier to work with than others. Since Jim couldn’t write a check or give a credit card number, they eventually had to deal with me.

9.   Withdrawal from work or social activities. Jim had always loved visiting with family, but as his ability to follow a conversation, or to participate, he would sometimes just wander away from the group. We had always played pitch, and Jim went from being a formidable opponent to one who didn’t know which cards to play. Before he stopped playing completely, his mom sat by him and helped him.  

10. Changes in mood and personality. Jim’s personality underwent drastic changes. He liked to tell stories to the kids, he joked around with his cousins, and he was an expert on many subjects. All that changed. He became more childlike, sometimes docile, other times frustrated and angry.


The signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia are far beyond the typical age-related changes. I know that I can sometimes worry when I can’t find the right word, or find my cell phone, or multitask the way I used to be able to do. I also know that a recent scan showed “age-related changes” in my brain. My doctor assured me that it is not Alzheimer’s, but I needed to watch my “numbers” to maintain my brain. We all know that we need to use it or lose it under the best of circumstances.

Forewarned is forearmed, and I intend to stave off vascular dementia. Here’s my sign: “Monitor blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight.” So far, I’m doing fine, and I intend to keep it that way. 



Copyright © Sept 2023 by L.S. Fisher


Friday, September 22, 2023

Walking Since 1998

Last Saturday we had our Walk to End Alzheimer’s. It takes months of preparation and planning to have a successful walk. For several years, we’ve had a small core group. To add to the difficulty, we began the year with a new walk manager, who we met exactly once. Then, she left.

Being without a walk manager isn’t new territory for the Sedalia Walk. The three of us, WyAnn, Jessica, and I met and decided to set up our committee meeting schedule for several months. 

Eventually, the Greater Missouri Chapter found a new walk manager, and Julie turned out to be a dynamo. Although she had a long drive each time she met with us, she came to town often.

Last year we held our walk in the afternoon during sweltering weather. This year, we moved it to the morning to avoid the heat. As luck would have it, Saturday was much cooler anyway. People were wearing jackets, and I took advantage of the cooler weather to break out my 1998 denim “Memory Walk” shirt.

My family arrived and we took a group photo. During the opening ceremony, the MC announced that Jim’s Team was the best fundraising team. Following the flower ceremony, I spoke briefly about the 1998 walk and caregiving. I didn’t rehearse what I was going to say because I wanted it to come from the heart.

After the opening ceremony, the walk began. Ginger found a place on one of the golf carts, the rest of Jim’s Team walked through the balloon arch and stopped for a photo. After we walked through the covered bridge, I saw a sign that said “short” route, and I figured that was the route for me. The rest of the team opted for a longer route.

As I walked the short route, I paused to read some of the signs and meandered along the path, coming to the realization that the short route was beyond my capabilities. Luckily, a golf cart came up behind me and I gratefully climbed on board. I had a nice chat with my friend Anna Lee Bail, who coincidentally happens to be the most photographed person in town. She never misses a community event. In fact, she had left the walk for a while to participate in another fund-raiser that was taking place at the same time.

I had to leave soon after the walk, so my sons helped me carry the items from my sponsor table to the car. “I can unlock it from here,” I said. “I need to tell a few people goodbye.” They headed to my car in the parking lot, and I made my rounds and headed toward the car. My sons were standing by the car and it occurred to me that I hadn’t unlocked the doors.

As I clicked the locks, I said, half-jokingly, “Before long, you’re going to have to change the name of the team to Jim and Linda’s Team.”

For several years, I’ve noticed that my memory isn’t as good as it used to be. For about two months, I had bouts of vertigo. One day, I had a series of them and went to the emergency room. They started with a head and neck scan. The scan showed that I had some “age related” problems in my brain. I have to agree that getting old isn’t for sissies.

The important thing with age-related brain changes, according to my physician, is to watch my numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol, and A1C. Keeping active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle has always been a goal of mine. My arthritis has made exercising difficult at times, but I give my dog credit for dragging me outside on a regular basis despite my whining.

I’m giving myself the same pep talk that I would give anyone with health problems: concentrate on what you can do, not what you can’t do. A positive attitude won’t make your problems go away, but they make them seem less burdensome.

  I’ve also discovered that when I’m tired, I need to rest. If I’ve walked as far as I can, there’s no shame in accepting a ride on a golf cart.


Copyright © Sept 2023 by L.S. Fisher


Saturday, September 2, 2023

Bookmaking, the Legal Way

Mozark Press has been a sponsor of the Sedalia Walk to End Alzheimer’s for more than a decade. Each year, I make a monetary donation and provide free books at the walk. The books are a compilation of the previous year’s blog posts.

I know it sounds easy to just take what you’ve already written, slap it into a book, and publish it. I’ve always found it to be more complicated than that. 

One of the first decisions to make is a title for the book. For the 2023 book, I had chosen a title midway through the year. Music was so important to Jim and it’s an important part of my life since I’ve learned to play the ukulele and joined the family band. With that in mind, I chose Music for the Soul as the title for this year’s book.

The process for a simple blog book: After I plug the book into a template, format, and edit it—then I fix the formatting, and edit again. I write an introduction and the back page matter.

Of course, every book has to have a cover. Until last year, my husband downloaded a template based on the exact page count, and used a fancy-smancy program to design the cover. Often this process took longer than formatting the book itself. Lately, we have used a free cover layout and modified it to suit our vision. That also turned out to be a lengthy process as we modified their cover—sometimes trying to fit that hypothetical square peg into a mythical round hole.

Once the cover was finished and the table of contents and pagination were correct, I uploaded the book to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). In a few short minutes, a digital proof copy was available for review. After about 24 hours, I received a notification that the digital copy of the book was approved for publication.

Without fail, I have always found more errors on the printed page than I ever could on a PC screen. To speed up the process, I ordered a copy from Amazon Prime. I don’t have to pay shipping and received the book in two days.

I read through the printed copy and marked multiple corrections with red ink and colorful Post-it page markers. After I finished, I painstakingly made the corrections and hoped that I didn’t make more mistakes while updating the manuscript.

What I have described are the mechanics of publishing a book. As I read the stories that I wrote the previous year, sometimes, it was almost as if I was reading them for the first time. The stories jogged my memory about events, thoughts, and feelings that were on my mind as various events unfurled.

The creative process of writing and publishing my blog posts is an integral part of who I am. The blog always brings me full circle. I explore the beginning as I remember Jim before dementia. I remember the middle when I talk about caregiving, dementia, and our journey through the decade of loss. In April, I remember the end when Jim left this world. Then, finally, I talk about picking up the pieces—and a new beginning.

 I’ve heard people say that writing and publishing a book is like birthing a baby. Sometimes the process is painful, but the joy makes it all worthwhile.

My box of books arrived the last day of August, so I don’t have the angst of wondering if they will arrive before the September 16 Walk to End Alzheimer’s. I breathe a sigh of relief to realize that my legal bookmaking is over for a while.


Copyright © Aug 2023 by L.S. Fisher