Community outreach

Treatment For Alzheimer’s Should Start Years Before Disease Sets In: NPR

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Treatment For Alzheimer’s Should Start Years Before Disease Sets In: NPR.

English: Logo of NPR News.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I strongly encourage you to read the above article.  Too often physicians with insufficient training on elder-health issues dismiss the early signs of Alzheimer’s or other dementia as simply being age-related developments.  Doing so presents the risk of missing the small window of opportunity in which to treat cognitive issues early on, rather than when they have fully taken up residence in a patient.

Sure, there’s nothing yet that prevents or cures the disease, but being able to manage the symptoms early on certainly adds to the quality of life that both the patient, and their loved ones, seek to experience.

For those of you who have taken on the role of advocating for your loved one: when you escort your loved one with early memory loss or confusion to the doctor’s office, do not back down when he/she concludes the symptoms are to be expected due to advancing age.  NO!  Those symptoms could very well be indicative of disease-related dementia, OR the symptoms could be caused by medication side-effects (blood pressure medication, seizure medication and the like) or other medical conditions, such as urinary tract infection (UTI.)

It’s all about advocacy.  Do you go the easy route and take the doctor’s word for it, or do you push for worthwhile diagnostics to rule out any other serious or life-changing causes?

Alzheimer’s “exit-seeking” behavior at 35,000 feet.

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At a certain stage during the course of Alzheimer’s or other dementia, a person can exhibit exit-seeking behavior.  It is believed that the person exhibiting this behavior is actually trying to get home, or back to a familiar place, or even seeking a feeling of comfort rather than simply trying to escape from their current location.

Confused face with question markThis “exiting” can take place just about anywhere, even at the person’s own home – resulting in a dangerous scenario where a wandering vulnerable person could easily fall into any number of  horrific situations because of their inability to get back to the safety of their home (be it a personal residence or a long-term care facility.)  Exiting behavior also takes place in public places such as grocery stores or shopping malls, movie theaters, airports, and yes, even airplanes at 35,000 feet above the ground.  This latter scenario happened on a recent flight I took from Dulles International Airport (DC area) to Seattle International Airport (Seattle, Washington.)

Just a half hour into our five-plus hour flight, a female passenger of approximately 75 years of age became very agitated during our ascent and before the fasten seat belt sign was switched off, she climbed over the passengers in her row, carry-on in hand, screaming all the way to the back of the plane from Row 34.  I was seated in Row 35.  “Wow, she must really have to use the bathroom!” I thought.  A flight attendant tried to get the passenger re-situated in her seat to no avail.  Complicating matters was the fact that the passenger was from another geographical continent and not only did she not speak or understand English, it was determined that other passengers who had flown with her from that same continent (not any relation or connection to her) also could not understand a word that she said.  In essence, she was speaking gibberish.  That was the first sign to myself and the flight attendants, that a) this woman was flying alone; b) she was in severe distress; and c) she most likely had some sort of dementia and was trying to exit her environment.  Not an easy task, nor one any of the United Airline employees were about to allow. Read the rest of this entry »

Too old to drive? Tips for families of elderly drivers

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Too old to drive? Tips for families of elderly drivers.

My oh, my – such a difficult subject to broach with a family member when you know that he should put down the car keys and let others do the driving for him.  The article linked above from NBC Nightly News is a good source of tips on how to handle this very familiar problem.  I address this issue in my article: Driving with dementia: the dangers of denial.  Although dementia is usually one of the most talked about reasons for taking away someone’s car keys, there are other reasons that are just as important that must not be ignored:

  • Age-related slow reaction times;
  • Medications that might cause dizziness and/or slow reaction time; and
  • Impaired eyesight and hearing.

Not wanting to hurt a loved one’s feelings should not be the reason to avoid this subject matter.  Let’s face it, your loved one’s safety and the safety of absolutely everyone else is at stake here.  There are already so many dangers on the road with drivers talking or texting on their cellphones, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, doing any number of distracting functions such as eating, personal grooming, changing a tune on your I-Pod, or being distracted by children or dogs in the back seat.  Now add someone who is impaired by age or cognitive disease and the risks to others increases greatly.

If you or a loved one are facing this important and difficult step, please read the attached NBC article linked above and also take the time to look at my article, Driving with dementia: the dangers of denial  that provides encouragement for how you might take care of this very important matter of safety.

Op-ed: Who are Seattle’s 47 percent? | Opinion | The Seattle Times

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Op-ed: Who are Seattle’s 47 percent? | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

In my opinion, the article linked above paints a clear picture of what the 47 percent might encompass.  As with any situation for which we have little understanding or exposure, it’s healthy to see what the flesh and blood of the situation equates to – put a face on it.

Making a generalization that those who don’t pay federal taxes are taking unfair advantage of government handouts seems so inaccurate – I guess that’s what generalizations are: inaccurate attempts (oversimplifications) to state something about which we have no understanding.   Just about everyone with whom I associate has gone through difficult times – financial and otherwise – at some time in their lives.  Not everyone stays hungry and without the means to get by – as if they would choose to remain that way year after year after year.

The above article introduces us to

  • a 76-year old woman who works but is not able to pay her electricity bill;
  • a well-dressed man with a Master’s degree in engineering who needs help with his rent who was very embarrassed to ask for help; and
  • a woman battling cancer and diabetes at risk of losing a leg.

These individuals are not second-class citizens just because they’re going through a rough patch in life.  I don’t consider myself a bad person because in the mid-1980’s I was laid off from my job as a program director at a cable TV company and had to collect unemployment insurance while looking for  a replacement job.  That time was temporary – as many trying times in life are.

Does this mean that everyone in need of a handout represents the “better angels of our culture?”  No, there will always be those who try to bilk the system – heck, the big bankers and financiers did that very recently – and arguably, still are –  and they certainly weren’t dining at the downtown food kitchen or struggling to pay their utility bills.  We might categorize them as second-class citizens because of their greediness, but I dare say they look vastly different from those portrayed so cavalierly in the political arena during this current election season.

World Alzheimer’s Day.

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World Alzheimer’s Day video:

The above video is amazingly dramatic and not just because it’s so well done and the music is so compelling.  It’s dramatic because it speaks of facts about Alzheimer’s and other dementia that are hard to wrap your mind around.

Here’s one fact I’ll provide, and then I encourage you to watch this two minute video to increase your awareness of this insidious disease.

The Fact: there are 15 million caregivers currently living in America.  If caregivers were the only residents in one of the states in the United States, they would completely populate the state of Illinois – the 5th largest state in the country.

Awareness is key – pass this link on to others so that greater attention is placed on this disease that is the ONLY cause of death among the top 10 causes of death in America without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression.

Healing from an unfulfilled expectation.

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I didn’t think I would write about this personal experience, but today I realized that in order to fully heal, I need to express myself.

So here I go.

English: Trinity Presbyterian Church Cross in ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Five months ago, I made a well-thought out and measured decision to leave the religion of my birth.  Let me make this perfectly clear: I left a religious organization.  My faith is still intact.

I was quite active in the local-area church of that religion: I was a scripture reader; I trained other scripture readers; I started a volunteer chore ministry that served the members of that local church as well as the geographic community in which that church is located; and I contributed financially to both the local-area church and the “Mother” church.

The catalyst for my leaving the religion of my birth was the “Mother” church’s decision to encourage all local churches of that religion in Washington state to hold a political petition signing at each church service on a particular Sunday in April 2012.  Each local church was given the option of whether or not to hold this particular petition signing; some churches opted out, many opted in.  Therein lies part of the problem.

I firmly believe in the absolute separation of church and state.  When I heard that this petition signing was to take place, I approached my local church and asked if they would be participating.  “Yes” was their answer, and they did.  The issue at hand for me is that once you bring politics into a church’s sanctuary – regardless of the political party, cause, or issue – you taint the worship space that was created for the express purpose of praising God, celebrating the rituals in which we find comfort, and building up the Body of believers who call that local church the home base for their faith.

My “beef” isn’t even with the local church I left.  (As a matter of fact I met with the local church leadership to talk about my concerns and my intention to leave and we had a very thoughtful and respectful conversation.)  My beef and major concern centers around the hierarchy of leadership that holds onto teachings that I have not supported for quite some time now.  The petition signing was merely the catalyst for me to finally be true to myself and the faith in which I clothe myself.

Now the healing that I’m seeking – healing from an unfulfilled expectation.  I cared deeply about many of the people with whom I worshiped and I thought the feeling was mutual.  You see, after more than ten years of attendance and active participation, I had the expectation that someone would a) notice that I was no longer there; and b) care enough to get in touch with me.  Five months after leaving the church I received an e-mail from someone asking if I had left the parish, because this person missed seeing me on Sundays. That e-mail made my day.  That e-mail both made me grieve, and rejoice.  Grieve – because only one person cared enough to reach out to me.  Rejoice – because one person reached out to me and confirmed that I mattered.

The lesson in all of this for me is that it’s not the local church’s fault that I’m hurt from their lack of response to my absence.  I erroneously placed my personal expectation onto others – those who didn’t know what I had hoped would happen.  I’ve come to believe that “expectation” is simply a fantasy of a personal hope that we try to impose on other people and/or events.

In that respect, the phrase “unfulfilled expectation” is a contradiction in terms.  Again, going with my definition of fantasy, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fantasy in this manner: the free play of creative imagination.  The dictionary also provides an obsolete definition of fantasy as “hallucination.”

So there you have it.  I hallucinated what I had wanted to take place – but it wasn’t fact.

Life is a series of reboots.

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060526-N-9543M-001 New York City (May 26th, 20...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Katie Couric is redesigning her news career with a daytime talk show; and Jeff Probst of the “Survivor” television series has done the same.  I guess you don’t have to be a normal non-celebrity middle class person to be bored or unsatisfied with life to have an excuse to recreate yourself.

In my article, “Creating the next chapter of your life” I focus on the tendency of some of us to seek new ways in which to express ourselves and/or additional ways in which to make an impact on our small portion of the world.  This is certainly a topic that rarely leaves my thought process as witnessed by some of the other articles I’ve written, including: “Dragonfly: a well-lived brief lifetime,” and “Voices of the Bored Retirees.” 

But I’m not the only one who is currently redefining or recreating ones life.

I am personally acquainted with a 79-year old woman, a 64-year old man, and a 63-year old,  59-year old, and 36-year old woman, who are actively pursuing a transition from one chapter of their lives to the next.  Personally, I feel that such a pursuit is good for the psyche; it brings a fresh outlook on what we’re still able to accomplish, and, equally as important, might prove beneficial to others as we stretch our wings – and perhaps even our comfort zone – in our efforts to make the most of our talents.

Does this mean that if a person spends decades in the same career they are less evolved or community-focused?

Hell no.  I happen to be married to a wonderful man who has been with the same company since he graduated from college more than 30 years ago, and not only is he doing all he can, and then some, in his career, he also reaches out to others for whom his other non-job skills – and there are many – can be used.  And boy do we need those dedicated employees in this world who are not only committed to their chosen career path but who also defy the odds – and improve the economic forecast – by staying with the same employer.  I’m glad some of you are doing that, and doing it so very well.

I think I can credit, and thank, my limited attention span for the catalyst that keeps me on the look out for that “something else” that might be out there for me to do.  Fortunately, most of the reboots I’ve experienced have worked out for the better.  Not all of them are money-makers, but I can honestly say that they have all had a more positive than negative impact on the world around me.  I’m the only one who has to account for whether or not I’ve been a “good and faithful servant” of this life that I’ve been given and I’m committed to keep trying until I get it right.