“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?” –Psalm 8:4
Putt putt putt putt…this year keeps a puttin’ along like my 1979 Dodge Omni did for far too many miles. Every day I open the proverbial newspaper (I stopped reading the paper a long time ago…) and see/her about the latest odd thing going on in response to the pandemic. California banning church singing, Nevada’s ban on more than 50 in a church while allowing casinos and strip clubs to operate at 50% capacity, mainly on the strength of a weak statistic saying that at least 650 have contracted the illness in a congregational setting. 650 cases out of well over 4,000,000 total. Yup…makes good sense. No mention of banning Wal-Mart and/or grocery stores, where untold numbers have been infected by pajama- but not mask-wearers. I encourage you to read this profoundly biblical piece from Grace Community Church: Link
Awkward article transition is found right here. 🙂
OK…sooo…..My kids spent some of their time yesterday digging through old pictures in the garage. They are off to college in 2 weeks and are getting bored, so some fun garage cleanup sounds in order? I don’t know, but I will reap the rewards of their unusual thinking. 🙂 Regardless, they pulled out this gem, which made me think a little about dementia:
Yup, you guessed it…that is me circa 1988-ish. Oh crud…that dates me…uhh…errr…I meant to say that this picture was taken a couple years ago while I was in HS. Regardless, baseball has always been meaningful to me and (light goes on inside of my head…and shoe horn is scrambled for…)…well, perhaps we can learn some about my dementia story from baseball? Hmmmm.
9 Things You Can Learn From My Illustrious Baseball Career About Dementia (One for every inning)
- Muscle memory matters. I pitched much of my baseball career. Having pitched tens of thousands of pitches (hundreds of which from just one game against Carthage’s nearly-Bronx Bombers), you quickly learn pitching that you have to find the routine to be good. Example: You need the correct “arm slot” when you pitch. If your arm drops or gets out of whack, pitches do all sorts of wrong things. In dementia, routine is also super important. If you can maintain the same folks doing the same tasks, things go well. Introduce something/someone different into the fold and all bets are off. Read back through articles from the early days of DC. Mom would do great for a week or two…then a holiday would happen, a new staff member would be introduced, or someone would, sadly, pass away. All things would fall apart….
- Aloneness can be good. When you are pitching, there is a strong feeling of aloneness…or at least there was for me. This can be ok. There was times when things weren’t perfect at home or school or with my girlfriend…but when I was on the hill, I was alone and nobody could take my hill. Getting out alone for some me-time, whether surrounded by teammates and screaming fans or behind a fishing pole is a basic human need. If you are a dementia caregiver, find time for some alone time. Get alone to relax. To pray. To read. To inhale and exhale. Get help. The Alzheimer’s Association and your local Area Agency on Aging , not to mention your church or civic group, can help you find respite help to facilitate this rest time. You need it…trust me.
- Aloneness can be bad. There are few times in my life that I felt more alone and naked (Go away, Freud) as when I was “on the hill” and things weren’t going well. I had bouts of wildness when pitching that would worry the first several rows…and would feel very alone until I got it figured out. Aloneness, for seniors, especially those with dementia, can be very harmful. Isolation, as reported many places after a recent study, has the same harmful affect as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We are made for community, and when we don’t have it, we suffer.
- Ruts. One of the challenging things about pitching is every pitcher’s mound is different. They are supposed to be uniform in height and circumference, but anyone who has ever took the mound knows that every place is different. What’s worse is pitchers dig their spikes into the mound and dig ruts and the opposing pitcher all but falls in said ruts while trying to pitch. It is a big challenge. When the rut is yours as a pitcher, it is a nice situation that helps your routine. When it is the other person dealing with your rut, not so much… As you labor through a decent amount of time as a caregiver, remember your ruts aren’t other’s ruts and likewise. When someone asks to help you, find a way to let them help you. Allow them to take the pressure off, even for a bit, even if it doesn’t seem to be an area of need and don’t be afraid to offload ruts to them here and there. If you are worn down in an area, find/ask for help for it.
- The coach. I used to hate to have the coach come visit the mound and give me advice. It doesn’t matter whether their advice was good or bad, I always thought I had it figured out. In dementia, don’t assume you have it figured out. Take advice from the one paid to offer it. Showing a warning sign of dementia? Talk to your doctor! Struggling knowing how to deal with your loved one’s condition at home? Call the Alzheimer’s Association hotline at 1-800-272-3900 for a professional. Having trouble at the nursing home? Ask for help from a senior nurse and ask the family, who likely knows the many ins and outs of their loved one’s condition better than any medical professional. Don’t fear the coaches…they are here to help.
- Try the change-up. For baseball novices, a change-up is a pitch, thrown with the same effort and appearance as a fastball, but it comes in at, typically 7-10 MPH slower than your other pitches. This misdirection catches a batter off guard just enough to cause them all sorts of problems if done correctly. Sometimes we have to deploy the change-up with our loved one with dementia too. When they ask to go home when you visit them in the nursing home is just one such occasion. Your three choices in this sad event: ignore them; argue with them by saying NO; and change the subject. The first option is disrespectful and won’t get you anywhere. The second option is about the same…with a sprinkle of anger or deeper sadness mixed in. BUT, try changing the subject instead. “We can discuss that shortly, but how about a cup of coffee or a little yogurt? I want to tell you about my garden!” is a better response than the above. How how about “Do you know whose birthday it is today???”. Something to change the topic and give the (sad) opportunity to forget the request to go home. Trust me…changing the subject tactfully and lovingly does work… and is still respectful.
- Pitchers can’t hit. OK…there are exceptions. However, by and large, pitchers can’t hit well and hitters are not pitchers. They have their niche and everyone accepts that as the norm. When it comes to the law and dementia (and senior living in general) remember this: elder law lawyers are a tremendous resource for matters we deal with and “regular” lawyers do their own thing. Don’t trust a regular lawyer to do your estate/trust and other senior-oriented situations. Find a well-reviewed elder lawyer and pay the money. It is worth every penny.
- It’s all in the grip. I had multiple grips on my pitches. My 2 fastballs were held differently. My 4-seam fastball was held in the wider arc of the seams while my 2-seam one was where they were close. My curves? Yup…different again. Mom used to joke with me straight out of the funny papers that I was throwing a KnuckleBall like Charlie Brown…a pitch that requires you either dig your nails into the seams or your knuckles. Regardless, every one looked different. Sorry that an extra-large shoehorn is required here, but know this…your Area Agency on Aging can help you make accommodations on your home that will help your loved one stay in their home longer than without them. They can install grab bars by the toilet and/or shower to grab onto to prevent falls. The can sometimes help with ramps and stair rails and the like to make your home safer and more fall-proof. Lean on them for help. If they don’t offer the service, chances are good they know who does…
- Eventually our time on the hill is over. I pitched off and on for over 10 years. Some of the most fun I ever had in my pre-teen and teen years was found on the hill, staring down some goober on the other team, looking for weaknesses. Then one day, without even realizing that my time was done, my time was done. It was a great ride. Dementia is the opposite on the fun meter, but the same in other ways. The battles are day-in and day-out…then they are also done. Mom has struggled for a couple years now, and struggled mightily, but someday she will come off her hill one final time…and in to the arms of Her Savior. I wish I had more time with the old mom infinitely more than I miss pitching and someday soon she will be gone. Until then, we serve, we advocate, we recruit help, we love and we push to #EndALZ .
Update: Nothing much new. I will see mom in the morning again, finally. It stinks being so limited by this stinkin’ pandemic.
Dad Joke of the day:
Why does a pitcher raise one leg when he throws the ball?
If he raised them both, he’d fall down.
Last note: I miss baseball. 🙁 Stinkin’ virus! 🙁 Go Cardinals! BTW…I was a mediocre pitcher for the most part. I did throw curve balls that looked like whiffle balls they had so much movement…but my fastball was weak, my physique was more suited to watching it on TV, and I didn’t give it all I had enough. But those were the days…