Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. –Genesis 9:3
Hi all! The week is speeding along like a 1991 Ford Tempo with 3 of 4 cylinders working (I know this by experience)! I will not be posting tomorrow nor Monday as I am taking a 4 day weekend to perform some fall cleaning and work projects on my home. I reserve the right to change my ind should anything come up, but I really need this time to reorganize my existence. Please take the next few days and read back at some of the older pieces. Tell your friends and family about our little table here while you are at it. Oh, and pleeeeeeeaaaaaaseeeee join/donate to my virtual Walk to End Alzheimer’s team here while you are at it. 🙂 Now, with these disclaimers past us, let’s hop in and discuss the topic of the day: my loathe of cars and dementia.
As a reminder from yesterday’s article (Please stop and read it if you haven’t yet), my 2000 Buick Park Avenue has a problem (enter “so does its driver” jokes here…). The headlights turn on and off and/or stay on all of the time. It has a headlight control module messed up. There are other wiring issues, but this is the most pressing because it causes the battery to die. There is soooo much to learn from my failure as a shade tree car mechanic, but I will limit it to just one little acrostic here, some of which is something of a rerun from yesterday’s piece. (Note: I got my car back, unrepaired, from the shop last night. I couldn’t/wouldn’t pay $360 for one little part that won’t make it last longer!)
Investment is required. When you drive terrible cars like I do, you expect to spend money and, worse, time in keeping them afloat. It is not as simple as buying a nice car that never breaks and merely getting it serviced. You will have downtime. You will need help from others, be it through rides or “Please hold this flashlight” moments on the road…but it can be done. Staying home with a patient with dementia can also be done, but it takes a tremendous investment as well. You need time…36 hours a day (24 for them, and 12 for you). You need safety equipment. You need respite help so you can leave to get groceries, take a mental health break, or other reasons… It will cost time, money, health (more often than not), relationships (funny how some friends won’t make eye contact when times get rough…), and a lot else as well…and it is worth it all. If you need help, contact the Alzheimer’s Association and your local Area Agency on Aging.
Healthy living helps. One of the hardest parts of working on my cars is being heavy. It is hard to get positioned in the engine compartment, under the car, and the like to fight off the repair bug with good maintenance. In the old adage “Pay me now or pay me later”, I tend to pay later. Want to fight off dementia? Remember this adage: “What’s good for the heart is good for the brain”. Eat right. Exercise. Take care of all of the things they check at your physical (blood sugar, blood pressure, etc…). Drink only in moderation, if at all. At least 1/3 of all cases of dementia are preventable. Maintain your brain’s vehicle.
Add to the healthy living discussion: protect your head. Your heart…you know the one we discussed in the context of “What’s good for the heart is good for the brain”. Well, it is caged nicely under layers of skin, muscles, and a bone box that protects it nicely. Generally you can take a blow to the chest and it is protected. There is a chance the heart will stop when the chest is struck… much more than an inconvenience mind you…but it seldom gets damaged by a blow. The brain, also protected by a nice bone Tupperware box, has other tendencies if struck. Think of the brain as one of grandma’s cupcakes inside of that Tupperware except, instead of floating in love and rainbows it is floating in fluid. Slosh it too hard, or worse, strike it hard, and you can smack the brain against the side or damage it in other ways. Concussions speed up dementia if they aren’t a direct cause. Link and Link . Science shows these links quite clearly…but experience shows it crystal clear. Several of the Sweet 17 were relatively going along ok…then they fell. On their face, more often than not. 🙁 Guard your head against concussion. Talk to your local Area Agency on Aging about fall prevention programs. It matters. Protect it.
Try doing without a car these days? I acknowledge that many of my subscribers (thank you, by the way) live in large towns that have mass transit. However, I expect many, if not most, do not. Doing without my car really messes up my activities of daily living (my lazy person definition). It is super inconvenient. This same term, activities of daily living (ADL) means much more if you have dementia. The common thread of the 10 warning signs of dementia is that the signs are more than an inconvenience…they are a life changer. Do you occasionally forget where you left your keys? Yup…me too. However, do you sometimes forget how to turn on your car or how to drive home? That is much more. There are things that are “normal with aging”, but there are many things that are not. Concerned? Talk to your doctor. He/she can screen for the many, many things that mimic dementia and, should you be diagnosed with dementia, he or she can prescribe a care plan that will help you and your loved ones. Do it today, before it moves from inconvenient to tragic.
E is for effort. I am always messing with my cars. I don’t love it, but I do it. Why? That is where I am in life right now. If money was no object, I would probably buy a fleet of new cars. But having a fleet isn’t worth getting an extra job to me. I would rather see my family and live in a decent work-life balance….and I can choose that. Dementia patients are out of choices. Either we help find treatments and a cure…or they die. All of them. Millions of them. Mom. The Sweet 17. My uncle. Dead. 🙁 I discussed the personal caregiving effort required above in the Investment section. Another aspect is the effort that we all can and should give to finding a cure. If you aren’t a scientist, give to the Association who funds many of them. if you don’t have money, raise it in a Walk to End Alzheimer’s or a similar event. Talk to your legislators about funding bills. The Alzheimer’s Association has a partner that is great at helping you do just that. The Alz.org website has all sorts of other ways to help (clinical trials, donating your brain at death, etc…). Effort will be required of millions not seen since the AIDS epidemic’s response. Are you ready?
Closeness helps and hurts. In order for me to replace this stupid headlight control module, I have to crawl in to the driver’s seat head-first, lift my legs up to the headrests (and break my rule against having my rear end be above my head…) and drop my upper body into the floorboard, looking up at the squid of cables, modules, and pipes under the dash. Even after losing 85 pounds, this is a huge challenge for me at 260. THEN, I have to be able to read the numbers on the modules to remove the bad one. They are less than a foot from my nose. Even if I had decent eyesight, I would have a hard time reading things that close upside down. However, the only way I can see any of it is to assume this posture and get up close. In dementia, many, many family and friends drop out…go AWOL, if you will. I completely understand. That is pretty much my attitude when my grandma had a stroke and was somewhat my attitude when my other grandma developed dementia/congestive heart failure…and I regret it deeply decades later. You will see a lot when you get close to the situation. It will be hard. Sometimes you have to back off a little for clarity…but please keep trying. Replacing that headlight module…and finding a cure…will require it.
Age shouldn’t matter. I have had newer cars and older ones. All ages have their advantages. My newer cars have tended to get better mileage, have had cooler features, and have looked sportier (Note: relatively speaking from someone who buys crap cars). My older cars have been built like a tank. They, being less technical, have been easier to repair/service. I tend to feel safer in them because they have “been there, done that”. In dementia…and in nursing homes in general, the growing anti-mask movement is using as a primary excuse/rationale “It is only seniors who are dying.” or “It is only those with multiple conditions who are dying”. Since when have we based the value of a life on such drivel? What, if the person isn’t as beneficial or financially valuable to you personally or to the economy, they are somehow less than?? Hmmm. With that in mind, why not ban abortion. These babies have a life ahead of them to pay taxes, cure cancer, and the like. I realize the truth to the fact that seniors and/or those with co-morbidity (other conditions) tend to be the ones dying…but so freaking what??? (Sorry…Sigh…deep, cleansing breaths…) They matter as much as the most wealthy business owner, politician, protester, counter-protester, or movie star/athlete. We are a nation blessed with unalienable rights not granted us because of any of these divisive areas…all of us. Equally. We protect the vulnerable here…we don’t minimize them.
Revolving doors cause issues. My Grandma Rodgers, who died of dementia/congestive heart failure several presidents ago, was a unique driver. (Rerun story alert…but that’s ok…many new readers here). My grandpa owned a car lot and brought home a different car for grandma every week (or even more often). Grandma, my next-door neighbor in my grade school years, would occasionally drive me to school or elsewhere in one of these new cars. Keep this in mind: one day might be a Pinto and the next day may be a Trans-Am (somewhat less likely, but very possible). Grandma, not familiar with the idiosyncrasies of said vehicle and living on sort of a gravel-ish paved road, would sometimes…heck, often peel out…burn rubber, if you will… to get out on the highway. To the raucous applause of us grandkids, I promise you! We hooted and hollered and made Dukes of Hazzard references. It takes time to get used to a new or a used car. I break mine so fast, to the dismay of my family, they never do get used to some of them. The correlation to dementia here is staff in nursing homes. There is tremendous turnover, often in critical areas like memory units. This needs to stop. These folks with dementia need consistency. They crave it. Better, their brain craves it because their brain needs rest from trying to remember and figure out solutions to what used to be automatic. It must be savagely hard to have dementia and lose more and more of what should be automatic. The brain requires this rest and typically finds a way to make it happen. That is why we, sometimes unknowingly, drive the same way to work, get dressed the same way, eat many of the same things, get into routines and do a million other things in habits…so we don’t have to constantly plan and figure out…and so we can reserve brain power for when we may be in danger. Read the early days of this blog when mom would fight the person giving her bath. She didn’t remember everything, but she remembered nudity in front of strangers isn’t generally acceptable. However, once she got over the change, she would thrive with the same person doing the same things in routine. If you are a nursing home administrator, never forget how important consistent caregiving and routines can be for these vulnerable folks. Never forget it. Please. It matters.
Starting is half of the battle. I wouldn’t really care if my headlights flashed now and then while sitting in my driveway. I mean, other than the nice neighbors reminding me that I left my lights on (even though it wasn’t me that left them on, but the rogue headlight module), it really wouldn’t bug me. I mean, it is a $1,000 car. You expect “idiosyncrasies”, if you will. Broken features. Issues. BUT, since the lights drain the battery, the car will not start. If it won’t start, it just sits there like a Robin toilet. You gotta get it started for it to help. Are you started in the dementia universe? Are you personally affected, perhaps with a friend or loved one? Are you a friend of someone personally affected? Find a way to help and do it. There is a hump you have to get over…getting started. Find a way you can help and do it. Ask your neighbor for specific things you can do. Don’t float the “If I can help, give me a call.”. That is a very nice thing to say and is well-intentioned…but replace it with something more specific. Can I watch your loved one while you take a nap? Can I mow your yard? Can I provide transportation to the doc for you and your loved one with the disease? Find a niche and do it. Sometimes the full-time caregiver needs help, but doesn’t have the mental strength left to list the ways. Give him/her options instead. 🙂 AND, with the shoe on the other foot, if you are a full-time caregiver, accept help. Find ways to get others involved. Don’t go it alone. Sometimes that friend or family member wants to help…and just needs to get started. Do it today.
Is my point clear? I hate cars…or at least working on them. I love having cars…working ones…but I hate broken ones. Oh, and I super hate dementia.
Have a nice weekend all!
Update: New wheelchair is on its way for mom. All things considered, she is still doing ok. She is happy and not progressing much (although there isn’t much further a person on hospice for a year can progress until they are gone). I love her and will continue to do what I can and visit as often as I can until the Shawshank rules are lifted. I sure look forward to watching some Andy Griffith with her again. 🙁
What kind of car does an egg drive?
What has four wheels and flies?
A garbage truck.