Minggu, 18 Maret 2018

No Use Crying Over Spilt Coffee

I don’t even like to talk before I have my first cup of coffee in the mornings. I like it hot with creamer in it and usually drink a half cup at a time. My husband, on the other hand, only drinks black coffee from his 16-ounce Mr. Coffee mug.

A few days ago, we started breakfast before I’d had time to finish my first cup of coffee, so I wasn’t functioning at my best. I had to be in town, and figured with luck, I could squeeze in time to eat.

We routinely divvy up the job of preparing breakfast, and my part is to pour the juice, milk, and coffee. I was pouring juice when Harold said, “My cup doesn’t have much coffee in it.” He handed it to me, and I grabbed the pot and poured it full. As I headed back with the mug, it slipped out of my hand crashing to the floor. Coffee splattered onto the refrigerator, my shirt, and puddled all over the kitchen linoleum. Sixteen ounces of black coffee turned into a river snaking in all directions.

Instead of crying over the spilt coffee, I said a few choice words, wiped off the refrigerator, grabbed a mop, and went to work cleaning up the mess.

This wasn’t my first time to clean up spilt coffee. Jim usually made the morning coffee, even after dementia made every small task harder. One morning several years ago, I walked into the kitchen to pour my first cup. A full pot of coffee was all over the counter and had spilled onto the kitchen carpet. Jim had forgotten the step of setting the carafe on the warmer to catch the brewed coffee.

I don’t think I cried that time, but I probably felt like it. It was unbearably sad that Jim, the person who always made the perfect pot of coffee, forgot how to do something he had done his entire adult life.

Jim’s morning routine was to drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, and play his guitar. He quit smoking a few months before I noticed he was having memory problems. That was certainly a blessing, not just that he’d finally quit smoking, but that we didn’t have to deal with the danger of him lighting a cigarette and forgetting to use the ashtray.

Jim struggled to play the guitar as his dementia progressed. After he went in the nursing home, it wasn’t long before he quit drinking coffee.

It is only human to cry over our circumstances when we know we can’t change them. Standing there mourning over the past isn’t going to help or change anything. We have to grab our mops and do what we can to put things right and move on.

I do not condone or even understand people who deliberately hurt others. Certain people demean others to give themselves the appearance of superiority. They may give more credence to our mistakes than they deserve thinking it diminishes theirs. Avoid these people when possible; otherwise, don’t let them disparage your self-esteem.

Dwelling on the wrongs we’ve done won’t improve our situation. No one expects perfection. We err. We make stupid mistakes. We drop the metaphorical mug and make a mess. If we learn from our mistakes and make atonement, we can walk in the sunshine and avoid the shadows.

Copyright © March 2018 by L.S. Fisher

Read more

Kamis, 15 Maret 2018

2018 Memory Day: Call to Action!

Last week advocates from across the state of Missouri visited the state capitol. Jessica and I traveled from Sedalia to meet with Senator Sandy Crawford, Representatives Dean Dohrman, and Nathan Beard. We would also lend support as needed with our fellow advocates.

It was a brisk day and the security line was long. We worked our way through the line in time to be recognized on the House of Representatives floor.

Our first appointment was with our senator, Sandy Crawford. We waited in the hallway for our fellow advocates, Crista, Jennifer, and Mindy to join us. After the introductions, Jessica explained the importance of the Alzheimer’s grants for respite. She explained that 110,000 Missourians have Alzheimer’s and that their 314,000 unpaid caregivers need an occasional break from the daunting task of taking care of a loved one at home. The $450,000 grant is in the budget for the Department of Health and Senior Services.

A survey of caregivers show that 99% state that respite helped them to care for their loved one at home longer. Sixty percent of nursing home residents in Missouri is paid for by Medicaid. Respite helps 500 families, and if those families could keep their loved ones home two months longer, it could save the state of Missouri $2 million in Medicaid nursing home payments.

Two months is a conservative estimate. I know that having home health care for Jim made it possible to keep him at home about six months longer. I received a small reimbursement through respite funds that helped me pay for his care. This was the only financial help we received, because Jim was too young for the programs in place to help seniors.

I explained the Structured Family Caregiver Act. This Act is designed to provide a new level of support for Medicaid qualified care recipients with dementia. The caregiver must provide the personal care needs and live full-time with the person who needs the services. An in-home agency administers the program. They provide professional support with care planning, training, monthly visits, and remote consultations.

This pilot program will be limited to 300 care recipients. It would provide a cost effective alternative to nursing home care. How exciting this will be if it passes! Family caregivers often have no experience providing twenty-four/seven care for another person. They often don’t know what to expect or how to handle difficult behavior.

The Structured Family Caregiver Act needs support! We opened the door and now we want our fellow Missourians to keep it from slamming shut. The bill sponsor, Kurt Bahr, is about to term limit out. If this bill doesn’t pass this session, it may never be proposed again. If this pilot program proves successful, it could well be a new model for keeping loved ones at home much longer.

I had a lot of family support with Jim, and I was much younger than many family caregivers. I often wondered how older caregivers could manage, especially without family support.

Caregiving is hard and often life threatening. The stress of being solely responsible for a person with dementia leads to health problems for the caregiver.

If you live in Missouri, please write, email, or call your state representative and senator today. It just takes a few moments. Ask them to fund the Alzheimer’s grants for respite and to move forward with the Structured Family Caregiver Act and then vote to pass it. If you live in another state check with your Alzheimer’s Association public policy staff to see how you can become an advocate.

Alzheimer’s is an equal opportunity disease. It affects Republicans and Democrats. Alzheimer’s knows no racial or economic limits. Anyone can get Alzheimer’s and people like you and me wind up being caregivers or being cared for by our spouses, daughters, sons, or even grandchildren.

Until we find a cure, we must provide extraordinary support for family caregivers and quality of life care for those who have Alzheimer’s.

Copyright © March 2018 by L.S. Fisher

Don’t know how to contact your elected official? Go to http://www.senate.mo.gov/ and https://www.house.mo.gov/

Read more

Kamis, 08 Maret 2018

Autocorrect and Senior Moments

Lately, I’ve been having issues with autocorrect, especially on my phone. The first problem with the phone is the small keyboard makes it easy to type a word incorrectly, and when autocorrect fixes that, I’m happy. But too often autocorrect will take a word that makes perfect sense and replace it with one that changes the entire meaning of what I intended to say.

Autocorrect problems aren’t limited to my phone; it can create havoc on my PC. A few days ago, I was going to a luncheon in Warsaw and I wanted to know just exactly how long it would take me to get there. That’s usually a simple task—just plug in my home address and in the destination plug in Warsaw, MO. Except that autocorrect in its infinite wisdom kept changing it to Warszawa, Mazowieckie, Poland. As if I could drive to Warszawa, Poland—AND get there in time for lunch! Then, since the program was so helpful, it wanted me to install something before I could actually get those driving directions.

I wasted precious travel time trying to change the destination to Warsaw, Missouri, USA only to have it changed to Warszawa time-after-time. After autocorrect won the battle, I kissed my husband goodbye and said, “I’m leaving right now. I’ll use OnStar to find the restaurant.”

“Set it before you leave,” he said. Well, I’ve been down that road, so to speak, many times before. I didn’t want the OnStar voice to direct me across town using weird streets, so I waited until I was on the open road. The OnStar advisor plugged in helpful directions, and I never had to leave the state, much less the country.

It’s not only electronic devices that autocorrect, my brain does it too. Preoccupation results in senior moments where I go to one of my usual destinations rather than where I’m actually headed.

Considering how complicated our brains are, with 100 billion nerve cells connected by 100 trillion synapses, it doesn’t take too much imagination to believe my brain might do its own type of autocorrect, jumping the rails, so to speak. I shouldn’t complain, though, because I believe my senior moments are simply a slight slowing down and not the catastrophic confusion of Alzheimer’s.

Here’s how the Alzheimer’s Association explains the difference between normal aging and Alzheimer’s: Poor judgment and decision making can be a sign of Alzheimer’s, but occasionally making a bad decision is a sign of normal aging. If you cannot manage a budget, it could be Alzheimer’s, but missing one payment is a typical sign of aging. Having difficulty conversing with others could be a sign of Alzheimer’s, but sometimes forgetting a word is normal aging.
I believe autocorrect should be renamed “auto-incorrect” especially when it refers to my thinking. As far as electronics, it’s a battle of me against machine to see which one of us is the most stubborn. It irritates me to have to click on a checkmark to let autocorrect know that yes, I did mean to type “address” not “espresso” as in “I need your address,” not “I need your espresso.”

Moment of truth—sometimes I blame autocorrect when I slip a cog and actually type something I didn’t intend to. You know, like one of those Freudian slips. Sometimes I might actually need espresso just to stay alert. It seems to me that when I’m alert, I don’t auto-incorrect nearly as often.

Copyright © March 2018 by L.S. Fisher

Read more

Selasa, 13 Februari 2018

Music Therapy

I saw a video that showed a young girl playing a guitar and singing “You Are My Sunshine” to her baby brother who has Down syndrome. Through music, he now has a twelve-word vocabulary. According to his mother, “Every word he has learned has been through music and singing.”

Music has always been a big part of my life. My mom came from a musical family and Saturdays were often spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for impromptu picking and grinning. I guess I thought everyone was raised like that.

Then, I married Jim and it was more of the same. He often invited all his guitar-picking, honky-tonk singing friends to our house for jam sessions. If we weren’t at our house, we were at his mom and dad’s or uncles. We seldom traveled without Jim’s guitar. His family was like my family.

None of us had much in the way of worldly possessions, but there’s a richness born from hearing a heartfelt song. Some of the best stories are told in the words of a three-chord country song.

Music can lift your spirit, give you a way to express your innermost worries or thoughts, and warm your heart. Music is therapy.

My family—91 year old mother, brothers, sister, sister-in-law, and niece—has a band that plays at area nursing homes one week each month. The residents really enjoy the old songs and look forward to the music fest on the appointed day. My brother Jimmy selects the songs each month to make sure the ones they choose are the songs the residents appreciate hearing. The songs my family sings strike a chord in the hearts and minds of their audience.

John Carpenter, founder of the Rebecca Center for Music Therapy in New York believes that live music “empowers clients to emerge from the isolation imposed by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.” He believes that listening to music helps with memory recall, positive moods, helps manage pain, and helps people with dementia interact socially with others.

Jim played his guitar every day, even during the early days of dementia. He learned to play the mandolin at an early age so he had that long-term memory to help him maintain his musical talent long after he had forgotten other skills. The time eventually came when he played the same tune repeatedly and he forgot the words to songs he had known for years.

He still listened to music. He had a Walkman with headphones that he carried with him everywhere. He listened to the songs he used to play and sing. He still tapped his foot and kept time, but he didn’t sing along. He listened in occupied silence.

Jim’s mom said he cut his teeth on his dad’s guitar. He came into this world to be surrounded by music. A big part of his life was music. He left this world to the sounds of his favorite tunes. Music was his therapy.

Copyright © February 2018 by L.S. Fisher


Read more

Selasa, 06 Februari 2018

Ice is for Buckets

“I hate ice,” I told a friend this morning. I guess that isn’t exactly true...  I like ice in my tea and other cold drinks. I like an bucket of ice when I’m staying in a hotel room. What I should have said is, “I hate to walk or drive on ice.”

Over the past few days, ice on the highways led to multi-car/truck pileups, cars abandoned on roads, and slide-offs into ditches. Short drives turned into nightmarish hours-long journeys.. Last night, ice-covered I-70 was closed down in several places due to accidents and people waited in traffic jams for hours.

In other words, it’s time for retired folks like me to not take a chance on an accident. I always say that at my age, if I break a hip, they will put me down.

Ice has never been my friend. Several years back I fell on the ice and smacked the back of my head. “I broke my head,” I told my sister-in-law when I made it to her door. I have never had such pain in my head before or since.

I’ve always been petrified to drive on ice. Jim was always protective of me, and when bad weather struck while I was away from home, he would call to find out if I wanted him to come and get me.

When Jim was in the early stages of dementia, I trusted him to drive me to work on icy days. After slipping and sliding my way to the car, I’d hand him the keys.

In time, the progression of the disease made Jim turn inward, and he no longer noticed bad weather or worried about how I was going to drive on ice. This forced me to become more independent about driving during inclement weather.

I learned to navigate icy roads to go to work. Some mornings, just as I was about to feel halfway comfortable, I’d round the corner, getting ready to head down the hill, and I’d see cars in the median, in the ditch, and flashing lights of highway patrol and tow trucks.

Now, I can just cancel most appointments and avoid the roads…and ditches. I can spend the day being cozy and warm and not taking any chances on breaking my head.

Copyright © February 2018 by L.S. Fisher

Read more

Rabu, 31 Januari 2018

Looking to the Heavens

This morning a special celestial event took place in the early morning hours. The super-moon, was also a blue moon, and a total eclipse, or blood moon, added to its natural charm.

Last night, I laid out my sherpa lined sweatpants, a warm sweater, then crawled into bed wearing my thermal underwear. I set my alarm for the unseemly hour of five a.m. Oh, yes, I used to wake up at five on every work day, but with a few years of retirement under my belt, my eyelids do not want to open at that time of day.

With such a photo op possible, I leaped out of bed and into warm outer clothing, threw on a coat, hat, scarf, and gloves. My dog was excited that I was up so early, and she thought it was all about her. My first trip out the door was to scope out the moon. I took a few preliminary photos, came back inside,  put the coffee on, leashed the dog and headed back out the door.

The next time I went outside, I brought my cell phone, both cameras, a banana, and a cup of coffee. Luckily, I had a great view of the moon from the deck. I pulled a wicker chair up to the table and got comfortable. As I looked at the sky, I thought about the wonders of nature and the power of God. I thought about heaven and about the people who wait there.

A calm, peaceful feeling surrounded me as I sat alone in the still of the night, watching the moon and the clouds drifting along. I thought about Jim and all the loved ones who no longer reside on this earth that we call home.

This morning was reminiscent of the cool mountain mornings when Jim and I camped at Moraine Park in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Many of my most vivid memories are of our trips to Colorado. We first went in 1983 and continued with the annual trips until they became too difficult. In Indelible, I recall one of the trips where Jim’s dementia changed what had always been a time of relaxation into a stressful situation.

Excerpt from Indelible:

In retrospect, I could measure the progression of Jim’s dementia by our annual trips to Colorado. In 1995, putting up the tent was a fiasco.

“This is the way it goes together,” Jim said picking up a pole from the pile of different length rods. We tried slipping the rods into the canvas only to find our final creation was not a tent.

“Okay, now are you ready for me to dig out the instructions?” I asked with as much patience as I could muster.

“I guess so,” he said grudgingly. Between the two of us, we managed to slide out the rods. Even with directions, it was hard to figure out what went where.

“That’s not right,” Jim insisted.

“Humor me.” I huffed and puffed in the thin mountain air as I struggled with the poles.

After a lot of stress, strain, and cuss words, our home away from home looked like it was supposed to.

As I wrapped myself in the warmth of my memories, a sudden cold wind roared across the deck rattling the chairs and sending a shiver through my body.

Well, that was odd, I thought. The clouds cleared, and the moon shone through. I snapped a few photos and set my camera on the table. I took a sip of coffee, looked at the heavens, and thought about the people who wait for us beyond the moon.

Copyright © January 2018 by L.S. Fisher

Read more

Senin, 22 Januari 2018

Sweet Memories

The first thing I saw on my phone this morning was a video in my “memories.” That simply means that I had posted the video in the past. The video of Jim and his brother Billy singing “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” was posted in 2015.

When these memories pop up, you are given an option to share. I hadn’t even gotten out of bed this morning when I shared the video. At night, I turn the sound off on my phone so I didn’t listen to the video before I shared it. Besides, I had to get up and around to have breakfast and go to line dancing exercise class.

After a good workout this morning at line dancing, I chatted with a few of my friends as I made my way to my car. I took my phone out of my purse to check for text messages. I was expecting a list of items to get at Walmart since we tend to make every trip to town count.

While I had my phone in hand, I decided to listen to the video. Soon Jim’s voice filled my heart as memories flooded back. I thought about all the jam sessions. I smiled at the memory of the house bursting with company and the sound of guitars and harmony. Happy memories and sad longings flitted through my mind. Happy won out as the video finished. I was glad to have this reminder of our younger days, before we knew our future held the unimaginable.

I fastened my seatbelt and headed to Walmart. I called Harold on my hands-free phone to see if we needed anything besides milk and eggs. Somehow, I knew there had to be other items to add to the list.

After he thought for a few minutes, Harold started naming off item after item. “I’m driving and you know how my memory is,” I said. “I’ll forget half of what you told me.”

“Just go down every aisle and that will remind you.” Thank goodness, he couldn’t see me roll my eyes. I avoid all the aisles I can.  As soon as I parked my car, I found an old sales receipt and started listing everything I could remember.

I picked up the eggs and was headed for the dairy section, when a Walmart employee paused in unpacking a box to say, “Excuse me. May I ask you a question.”

“Sure,” I said. I pushed my cart out of the way of the other shoppers.

“Is your last name Fisher?”

“Yes, it is.”

She smiled. “I took care of your husband!” She went on to ask me what I was doing now, and I told her I was remarried and retired.

“Jim was one of the first people I took care of at the nursing home,” she said. “You know, I still remember how you were there every evening to feed him.”

I told her I was working on a memoir about Jim. “I turned on a tape recorder on my way home each night and talked about how things went.” She and I said our goodbyes. “I’m really glad you told me who you were,” I said.

As I headed to the checkout, I couldn’t help but smile as I thought about all the people who touched our lives. Jim passed away more than twelve years ago, and people stop me from time to time to let me know they still remember him.

It is understandable that Jim’s indelible memory will forever be in his family’s minds and hearts, but amazing how many others his life touched. In the end, instead of erasing Jim, dementia ensured he would never be forgotten.

Copyright © January 2018 by L.S. Fisher

Read more