DO MEDICATIONS START OVER 50 OR IS IT 70?

prescription medications

It’s important to take precautionary steps when using medications with ALzheimer’s patients. photo courtesy CC

I often think medications for most people are just something that occurs when people get older. I’m not sure of the beginning date. Thinking back I do recall how surprised I was to hear my doctor tell me that my blood pressure was a little on the high side and that I would have to start taking some medications for it. At the time somewhere past 60, I believed it was something that a few pills would correct, then I could relax until I really needed medications for one thing or another. The good doctor informed me otherwise. With hypertension the patient really needed to take his/her medicine possibly for the rest of one’s life.

I’m not sure whether Ken being a runner, managing his health by eating right and keeping in shape, but his blood pressure was never an issue. But then his illness was Alzheimer’s not hypertension.

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cleaning the pantry

Sometimes we need help even if we don’t think we do.

WHAT COMES NEXT?  

July 15, 2016 – There comes a time in everyone’s life when help is needed – not just during a period of caregiving – but after the caregiving is over, the caregiver is often alone – or almost alone. Whether he or she realizes that, very often a large amount of time, even years, have disappeared. Following the demise of the cared-for loved one, the spouse left behind begins to realize that during the long period of caregiving, the loving service has taken an enormous bite out of his/her life.

BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT IS

Not only has time and age crept up on the unsuspecting former caregiver, but strength and energy in addition to the loss of muscle mass have left the once-energetic caregiver in need of help. A while ago I wrote about having my kitchen back so that I could arrange it for my needs. I’ve also found that if there are no volunteers, then you must ask for the needed help.

HELP IS THERE, BUT IS IT ALWAYS WANTED?

There’s more to a clean and organized kitchen than just the cutlery drawers. Recently my daughter Debbie spent some time with me. She and her daughter Kristina, who lives with me and has for a few years, thought it would be a good idea to clean out and arrange my pantry which has needed to be done for some time. Cleaning out my cutlery drawer was a small duty I had done in one day. I didn’t have much left in the department of energy to clean out the pantry.

The disadvantage of their combined efforts was that it was rearranged according to how it would suit Debbie. With all things accomplished, and they did a fine job, I found it difficult to find what I needed in the neat, organized storage area. I am so grateful for their effort. I do, however, have to search for wanted items. How can I make oatmeal cookies when I couldn’t find the oatmeal?

Ken’s former caregivers prepared oatmeal each morning for Ken, and now I couldn’t find it. So, in my effort to make up a batch of cookie dough I moved items around: from here to there, and often back again. In doing, I found myself putting most of the contents of the pantry back in the approximate area where they had always been.

APPRECIATION

I do appreciate these two women for their caring effort to do a job that needed to be done – and it is done. Then because the pantry was already cleaned, it was easy for me to readjust the canned goods, the boxed crackers, and the packaged bags of beans and pastas back to where I could find them.

So in my appreciation for their hard work, I can sincerely say, “thank you” dear ones. Now that the hard work is done I can keep it organized.

Meanwhile, I’ll look around to see what else needs to be cleaned and organized. It’s all a part of downsizing – something that all seniors should be doing. And it goes along with accepting help, even if you don’t think you need it. And when it’s needed, don’t be shy about asking.

Cata dna sog snuggling

Dogs and cats can be a source of affection. courtsey Creative Commons

DOGS AND CATS ARE ANOTHER SOURCES FOR HUGS

July 9, 2016 – Our Auntie Mary lived her last years in an Alzheimer’s care facility which was several years before my husband Ken showed any signs of the dreaded disease. I’m not really sure that Mary was ever diagnosed as having AD, but she did suffer from dementia and confusion.

ANIMALS ON COMPASSION DUTY

We’ve all read about service dogs and military dogs and the good they do continually with just a little training. Well, there was a dog on duty at the facility where Auntie Mary lived. I’m not sure of his breed, but he looked like an Alaskan husky with his full, bouncing collar of fur. I doubt I’ve ever seen a dog so devoted to his call to duty in making sure the residents had a visit. He would walk proudly from one room into another, seek out the resident and place himself within reach for a pat on the head, a good fur rub, or just a quiet visit. Visiting, as he did, he often greeted some of the visitors with the same show of affection and attention.

It has been said by the medical community that just petting an animal can lower one’s blood pressure by several points.

PET HUGS FOR THE ASKING

I viewed a short video on FB the other day of a dog who actually put his front legs with paws extended around a young boy’s neck. The boy hugged him back. It was truly an embrace and adorable to watch.

Ken and I were always animal people, and our children are as well. Daughter Julie and her ;husband Tim have adopted several dogs and cats. Fortunately the three very small dogs get along well with their border collie. And affection, they can’t show or get enough, spending as much time as possible on laps of “mom and dad” human or willing guests. You can’t help but feel worries melt away when holding a tiny furry life on your lap. Rosie, their resident gray tabby cat tolerates her K-9 buddies with no problems.

A family just isn’t a family without a dog. Debbie and Mark adopted a pit bull puppy that had been dumped on their street. Such a sweet little thing. They named her Buttercup, and she was as gentle as a lamb. All three sons have multiple dogs as well. Good thing their spouses are animal lovers.

FELINES ARE LOVING AS WELL

Gouda, our cat, verges on nuisance, especially when I’m at the computer. She wants to just curl up on my hands and take a nap. That’s when I slide her down and cuddle her on my lap for as long as she will stay. I am greeted in the morning as she nuzzles my face with her face. Then if I’m not fast enough, she reaches out one paw to my cheek and pats it gently keeping her claws to herself so I don’t get scratched. She is definitely a cuddle cat and brings comfort and joy to me and others. I’m grateful for her and our dog Buddy for their affection and presence in my life. When I don’t have a human near for a hug, I know that I can always depend on one of the dogs or cats in our house for a needed show of affection.

LIFE GOES ON NO MATTER THE STAGE OF ALZHEIMER’S

family gathered at a beach

With or without Alzheimer’s, family changes are inevitable as people age.

July 1, 2016 – Sleep seems to be an ever-time- consuming activity in the last stages of Alzheimer’s. At least such was the case with my husband Ken. This is an open letter to him about all that he missed in our family, while in the process of losing his life to Alzheimer’s. During these last stages of AD, Ken no longer communicated in any form. If he was in discomfort, he was unable to verbalize that discomfort. Nor could he verbalize whether he felt too warm or too cold, hungry or thirsty. He just looked into space and reflected nothing. Meanwhile, life went on.

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RX FOR HAPPINESS:12 HUGS A DAY

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A THERAPY SESSION OF HUGS

two cats hugging

Even animals know that hugs are a good thing.

June 25, 2016 – If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then how about a few hugs, and what do they do? We all know that hugs are a pleasant way to express caring for another person, with both participants benefiting: the hugger and the hugee. Hugs are known to release oxytocin, known as the snuggle or love hormone. The hormone is secreted by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland when people snuggle or bond socially. Even playing with your dog can give you a surge of this feel-good hormone.

HUGGERS

Ken and I were huggers from the very beginning of our courting days and all through our marriage. If someone asked me what I miss most about him, now that Alzheimer’s has sent his spirit to another dimension, I would say, “our hugs.”

And lucky us, we hugged for no particular reason. Often just because we were there; standing around could bring on a hug, and one of the best parts was that we fit so well. With his arms around my shoulders and my arms around his back we were like a jig-saw puzzle. We fit perfectly and our hearts touched. We would hold for a minute, exchange a kiss or two and he would say, “This feels so good.” “Sure does” I always answered, and then, following another quick hug, we returned to our tasks at hand.

FROM THE EXPERTS

According to a study published by the journal Hormones and Behavior, other secretions are also noted. Serotonin, a chemical found in the human body also contributes to feelings of happiness when an individual receives even a quick hug. while lack of he chemical can lead to depression.

There is an expression from Virginia Satir,  graduate from University of Wisconsin – Madison, and holding a number of honorary doctorials, she has written numerous books on the world’s social problems. As a highly respected family therapist she says, “We need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance and twelve for growth.” While doing research and writing, she asked her daughter, “How many hugs a day do you like?” In response the child said, “I’m not going to tell you how many I like, but it’s a lot more than eight.”

Through studies, laughter and hugging therapy have been proven to heal sickness, disease, relieve loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress. Deep hugs are best. Hug that person so that your hearts meet and let the oxytocin flow.

Ken Romick, a person with Alzheimer's featured in this blog, died early this month.

Ken Romick, a person with Alzheimer’s featured in this blog, died of the disease in October 2014.

A Father’s Day Guest Post From My Daughter

June 19, 2016  In honor of Father’s Day I am sharing the talk my daughter gave at her father’s funeral, almost two years ago.

I won’t say rest in peace, not as it applies to my father.My father has been resting for the last 14 years. I don’t believe he wants to rest anymore. Before Alzheimer’s, my father was never a restful man. He was always doing something: working, helping, constructing, hiking, running, volunteering, organizing, leading, and pushing others to be better and the best they can be. Even when he stopped to watch sports on television, he played along, shadow boxing early fights and making every sports play right along with the actual athlete on the screen. An afternoon of watching TV left him exhausted.

I think right now, he is making up for the lost time he couldn’t be busy, at least as busy as he was here on earth, before he was stopped by Alzheimer’s. He is visiting and catching up with all the people who went before him. He is filling their ears with good stories of his life on earth and sharing a hearty belly laugh with his antics here. He leaves a long legacy of those whose lives he touched. From scouting,  where he pushed his boys to learn from experience and struggle, to Little League, where they learned that winning wasn’t as important as trying your hardest and taking responsibility for yourself.  In Dad’s Club he showed, by example that men were as important in the education of their children as the mom’s who were already there, helping in school. And that the parent part of PTA meant just that, parents, both mom and dad.

One of the most important things that my dad did was listen to the missionaries from the LDS Church. Finally, after 27 years of listening, my father was touched by the right message and decided the time was right to accept the Gospel and make the commitment of baptism. While on that road, he learned the plan of salvation and the importance of a temple sealing of their marriage which was done the following year after 29 years on their wedding anniversary. As a member, his commitment intensified. He took his covenants seriously and served with more fervor, continuing to exemplify the teachings of Christ by the way he treated everyone, whether in or out of the church.

When he got Alzheimer’s , his core values and beliefs didn’t change. He may have struggled for words and memories, he may have let himself be overcome by the natural man, and be frustrated by his lack of memory, lashing out to loved ones and caregivers, but beneath that horrible disease, was the kind and gentle person he  really was. In times of clarity, he remembered his manners, apologized , said please and thank you for the care he was getting, expressed concern and tried to be as helpful as he could, despite the indignities the disease forced on him.

I am  grateful for the legacy he left, to the many people whose lives he touched in one way or another. I am grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the knowledge that I have that this life is just a step in the eternal view of things; that my father will be there waiting for his bride and to see the rest  of his family join him. My father was a shining example  that life is good and meant to be lived. He lived it well.

SHARED FATHERS

WEAR THE MAN OUT

June 12, 2016 — What dad’s need most as we enter into the week before the yearly event that celebrates fathers. And we should celebrate them. As men they are often used and used, then like an old throw rug, they are given a good shake and the other side is used and used until ever particle woven into the personality of these gracious men has been worn to just a thread. Wearing them out often takes a lifetime, but for these generous men, that’s okay. Often they are dedicated to their life of service in whatever manner that’s needed.

THAT’S WHY WE’RE HERE

That’s how my husband, Ken, felt during his lifetime of service, not only to his country, fellow man, community, but to the young men he worked with during years and years of Little League and Scouting.  One friend said that Ken was “a boy’s man.” In that label our friend meant that there are just some men that are “called” to work with boys and the young men of our society.

Of course, the fact that our last three babies came into the world as males opened the doorway to this dad who not only worked with our boys, but many boys whose dads were unable, for whatever reason, to step into that kind of leadership position. From the first farm team all the way through Little League he server as coach, manager, and president of the league to see that the program ran as smoothly as possible. All the while our family tied up nearly the entire summer until the last ball was thrown across the plate. He took his turn at being the umpire often calling out to his own sons or grandsons.

CUBS AND BOY SCOUTS

When Ken wasn’t at the ball park, he was with his scout troop, at a prep meeting with John, or meeting with the den mothers to keep in touch with what the younger cub scouts were planning under the guidance of the good women who also volunteered their time for the good of the growing boys.

Many a family vacation was put on the back burner while my husband and a few other dedicated fathers took the older scouts to the mountains to give them an experience most will never forget as they tramped through the mountains reaching heights they had never before encountered. For many of these young men their participation was a once-in-a-lifetime experience allowing them a spurt of growth that turned the young men into near-adults with the knowledge that if they could climb switch-backs, they could do just about anything.

Certainly, all of these adventures with Ken were long before the demon Alzheimer’s was a part of our life. Our community and family have been cheated out of years of service from this good man because of a terrible mind-destroying disease that is stealing so many outstanding men (women too) at this time in the health history of our land. We can only pray that researchers can at least slow the illness  so victims can continue with their productive lives. Meanwhile, if you are fortunate to have good men working with your boys, tell them thank you. They are giving away their most valuable possessions: their time and energy.

“WAY BACK IN TIME”

WHEN NEWSPAPERS HAD NEWS

June 3, 2016 — I remember those days. It’s been many years now. Of course newspapers still have news, but, for the most part, the news is what the local papers glean from the news service, what you see is what you get, unless you go to the paper on line. There you may find some local news. I had an item one year for our area. The reporter said that he didn’t have the time for an interview and there was no space in the paper. Being so captivated in the subject matter I introduced myself as a former news writer and asked if I could write it myself. He agreed, but added that it would only appear in the on-line edition of the paper.

There was a time, also years ago, when I wrote feature articles for a Sunday magazine section, BRIGHTSIDE, published by the owner of several small locals that served the southern portion of Alameda County, California. Besides being fun and interesting the section did receive several awards for what it was.  In addition, the plus side was that everyone we writers wrote about got their 15 minutes of fame in the newspaper. If you had a beautiful yard, had interesting hobbies, collectibles, or happened to be a talented artist, home decorator, or were an expert D.I.Y. couple,you became a person of interest in a positive way.

THE VITALS

Another remembrance: Vital statistics: If you were born, married, divorced, died, or were otherwise noteworthy, you got listed in the Vitals. I recall clipping out all the birth announcements for my children when I noticed their listing in the newspaper. Newly born was important. Those ancient bits of news items no longer are part of our newspapers, and the obituaries have changed as well. If you want an obit to appear it now costs a pocket full of cash. The rate per inch (for what was once an important news free public service item) now is about equal to advertising rates.

My father-in-law always read the obits and felt a sense of relief when his name wasn’t among the deceased — his little joke for family and friends. It still wouldn’t be there unless he had a special bank account for his death notice. When he did die, those many years ago, it was a news item and free of charge.

A SERVICE

The vitals were an important service to the public: A new mother received calls and cards of congratulations, life insurance companies sales reps. had a new person on earth to whom he/she might sell a policy, and the little one had his/her first minutes of fame.

The death notices informed the public of the demise of a favorite coach, a local leader, a loved Scout Master, a city official, a next-door neighbor to a bevy of family and friends. The notice also listed funeral date, time and place and final resting place. An official death certificate might even catch the eye of a government official, or at least before assuming that a citizen living in the community would live forever, there would be references to check to make sure their choice of contact still lived on the planet.

ANOTHER UNIVERSE

A few months ago there was a letter in my mailbox addressed to my deceased husband from the Federal Court in Oakland, CA requesting that he report for Jury duty and it even gave the dates to comply. At the bottom of the page was a section where the addressee could give reasons for not being able to serve. I filled in the section informing the office clerk that this person had died in 2014 and was unable to serve. On another line, the request asked for his the name of his work supervisor. Sarcastically, I wrote in “God,” and then I signed the request and sent it to the courthouse.

Today, my husband received another letter from the United States District Court. The paragraph inside read as follows: “This letter is to inform you that your request to be excused from Petit jury service in this federal court has been granted. You are not required to report for jury duty.

Should I be relieved, or should I expect another letter to Ken for service at court next year. I wonder if they update their files or if they just keep trying to resurrect the dead. Will they remove my husband’s name from their files or what? Meanwhile, I wonder if Ken plans to vote next Tuesday, and again in November. I understand that a lot of folks living where he is have been voting regularly. Hope so Ken, our side needs all the help it can get.

 

WHY DO WE CALL IT MEMORIAL DAY?                                    

Memorial Day is celebrated in the US to honor our dead.

 Memorial Day is celebrated in the US to honor our dead military.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 27, 2016 — In the United States, the last Monday in May is celebrated as Memorial Day, but first it was known as Decoration Day, and the date could be anywhere from the 25th to the 30th. Using a little logic one could also say, “What’s in a day or a date.” If the name covers the event I suppose that should be enough.

As a child living in eastern Utah the month of May was a busy time. For one thing, the previous month of April was supposed to bring the showers for the flowers that bloomed in May. April showers in our neck of the woods usually were more like late winter storms covering the landscape with another layer of snow and frost. Then in May when the flowers were supposed to begin blooming, we often got a blast of hail storms ranging from the size of peas to golf balls.

REMEMBERING OUR LOVED ONES

Nevertheless May also brought Decoration Day on the 30th of the month. Instead of gathering flowers from the gardens that were still shivering under the frozen earth, the women and older girls of the community were busy making crepe paper flowers to be placed on the graves of loved ones. We called it Decoration Day because it was the day set aside to decorate the graves. My parents knew just about everyone who was laid to rest in the small cemetary which included my dad’s parents, my mother’s father, and dad’s younger sister, and his own tiny daughter.

In our sparsely populated area I doubt there were any graves belonging to military men who had sacrificed their all for our country. Unless there was a patrotic young man who volunteered and went off to war, the rural communities were often overlooked by the military as the nation advanced westward.

The first Decoration Day was a day of commemoration as noted in a newspaper from Charleston, South Carolina. Originating there in May of 1865, a group of freed slaves gathered to pay respect to all who had died serving their country. They were aware of a mass grave where 25 Northern soldiers had been buried. The men worked until all 25 Yankee men had individual graves. Their goal was to remember all who had died recognizing and understanding that all of the dead regardless of which side they fought, those brave men who had perished were willing to sacrifice for a better, more united nation. The Southern town, with ministers and members, and children from the freed black community left no grave uncovered in flowers allowing no brown earth to show. Parades, speeches and picnics followed and participation from both black and white citizens came together to honor the dead. Major General John A. Longan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic declared it to be a day to honor all of the dead from that terrible internal war.

TERMINOLOGY CHANGED

It was not long before people decided that the name of Decoration Day should be changed to Memorial Day in honor of the dead from all of our wars. On May 26, 1966, President L. B. Johnson declared Memorial Day to be a federal holiday and it would be celebrated on the last Monday of May, and that at 3:00 p.m., on that special day, all should take pause for a minute as a personal thank you to those who have sacrificed all they had: their lives.

Memorial Day should not be confused with Veterans’ Day. Falling on November 11 of each year, this date was originally set aside as Armistice Day, which was that day in 1917 when a peace agreement was signed by all of the heads of state from the battered and battle-weary countries following World War I. This was supposed to be the war to end all wars. That didn’t happen, and many have fought and died in numerous wars since that date. Veterans’ Day has been set aside to honor all veterans living or deceased. A time to say Thank You for their service to the entire military. A military which now includes our beautiful daughters, sisters and many mothers.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE GROWN UP AFTER 60

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grown up

Grown up is not always a matter of age.

MY FUN BLIND DATE

May 20, 2016 – When I said “yes” in answer to an invitation, from a co-worker, to date one of his friends as a blind date I was set for disappointment as blind dates were usually a bust filled with boredom and regret. “He’s a really nice guy,” Jim insisted, “tall, fun, rather good looking and truly a nice guy.” Surprisingly he was all of those things. The evening was not filled with boredom or regret, but with lots of fun and happiness that I had agreed to go out with him. In fact he was the nicest young man I had ever met. We dated for a time and then had a falling out, then dated again, finally getting married. He was always a fun date and a delight to be with. There were many who met him and agreed that he was the nicest guy in the world.

LIFE IS AN ADVENTURE

That’s just a fact. Life is not always fun, but Ken had a way to make a somewhat serious situation into one of less gravity taking away the negative and somehow replacing it with something positive. At times I felt he was just too glib about the ups and downs of married life, but minor problems always seemed to turn out just fine.  There was nothing during the early years we shared together that indicted Alzheimer’s would be the one thing he wouldn’t be able to dismiss.

Being so nice, he was always a volunteer. If a neighbor or friend needed help, he was first in line even if it meant leaving his chore for another day. If the yard needed work with weeds to pull, he easily talked me into going to a movie instead or taking a quick trip to the beach. He was right though, the weeds did wait ’till later, the movie we saw would have been gone, and the blue skies at the beach were hidden under a thick overcast of gray for weeks on end. With a fun guy who wouldn’t grow up life was never a bore. Actually, his spontaneity was always an adventure. Once when I complained that he was still too much a kid at heart and told him that I often wondered what it would be like if I were married to a real adult. He laughed and one of our sons came to his dad’s defense. “You would be so bored mom,” he said then repeated, ” sooooo bored.”

TURNING THE BIG 60

As the birth anniversary month of June came close that 60th year, I thought it would be fun to have a surprise birthday party for him. I had arranged with our son Keith to casually be at our house to let the guests in while Ken and I did our usual early evening run along the East shoreline of San Francisco’s bay with the dogs.

I had asked my friend Eva if she could round up the last members of her late husband’s band, “The Islanders” and play for the event. She even went the extra mile and greeted Ken at the door when the two of us returned from our run with her ukulele and a special Happy Birthday song for the birthday boy. In addition. she brought a few hula girls for entertainment. The party was a success and a real blast. He was 60 and still hadn’t grown up. Noting by the above poster, it was okay that he hadn’t. If he had managed to side-step adulthood after six generations, growing up was no longer a requirement. 

THE SEVENTH DECADE BROUGHT ALZHEIMER’S: A BUMMER

Being married to the nicest guy in the world has been truly an adventure although the years of Alzheimer’s were not part of our plans he still managed to be my fun date for as long as the disease would allow. I miss my fun date and wouldn’t have changed him one bit. I miss him more than I can say in words. My life with him will always remain my greatest adventure.

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