And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Genesis 3:22
Happy Monday, friends! No, that is NOT an oxymoronic statement although you could argue that it is sans the OXY part, but I, for one, like Mondays. They represent a new week…a fresh start…and an opportunity for joy.
On my way to work this morning, well before dawn, I was passed by what seemed to be a sleepy truck driver. We know the type…the exception and NOT the rule. He was pretty loosie goosey, driving on the grooves dug into the side of the highway designed to keep us awake and remind us how closer we are to the edge. Once he got past me, I did the curtesy that mom taught me a long time ago…I flashed my headlights on and off to signify that he could return to the right lane, after which he flashed his auxiliary lights as a show of thanks for my gesture. The event reminded me of a little detail you may find interesting about mom: she could, and did, drive anything.
Mom’s very best friend, Diane, and her husband were team truck drivers back before truck driving was quite as regulated as it is now. Diane is a truly special lady and mom misses her in her own way very much! So, mom would occasionally hop in with them and travel the nation, usually but not exclusively as a passenger (if I recall correctly). I even got to be a passenger a few times in my late grade school years, going once to Ohio that I remember well. In the 1970s and 1980s, truck driving was honored and somewhat satirized by Hollywood hits like the “Smokey and the Bandit” series of movies, the “Every Which Way but Loose” movies, and TV show called “BJ and the Bear” to just name a few. The latter of these three fun films featured mischievous primates, the roll I played when I went with Diane and her husband. 🙂 I am certain I drove them nuts with the millions questions, honk, snack, and resulting pee break requests I made, but they were some really fun times for mom and for me and my siblings.
Does a truck have anything on Earth to do with dementia? 10/4 Good Buddy, that’s an affirmative.
10 Things Truck Driving and Dementia Have In Common
- Keep on Truckin’-Any time you do anything for long hours, routine is critical. I suspect driving a truck is similar. For one, your brain craves routine so that it can go in autopilot and plan for the next critical thing it is needed for. Boredom can lead to apathy that can lead to not concentrating, so you have to have a plan to stay busy enough without getting distracted. Routine, routine, routine… (Side note: I ran 17 miles Saturday. I had to stay busy, concentrate, and not poop out…routine mattered for me.) In dementia, like I have said around 5,280 times, routine in caregiving can make or break your day. When things are in a groove….when all tires are in your lane and nothing is out of whack, things work relatively smoothly many days. Mix things up and break routine and, more often than not, things are a mess. Try to find a schedule that works for you and your loved one and stick to it like a lightning bug on a windshield.
- Document everything– Truck driving today more than ever is monitored and regulated arguably to excess. Logs are kept of driving time/rest time, weights, and other things to prevent the driver from cheating the system and to, presumably, keep the rest of the folks safe as well. Taxes are documented. Expenses are documented. Tickets and other incidents, you can bet your Peterbilt, are documented. Dementia=same ideas. When you take your loved one to the doctor, document everything! You will be surprised how handy these notes can be because meds get changed. Write it down in a journal and keep track of it. Use this journal to also document other things. Write down changes you have noticed. Write down “things that work”…things you did that helped and/or brought about a good result. Have a breakthrough? Write it down. Did he/she say something funny or more more cogent than normal? Put it on paper. Don’t quiz, but break out the pictures and write down interesting things. In the end, minus a cure, you can go back and see the good and the bad and this journal will make for some closure of the effort required and of the love you shared together.
- Paying attention is a matter of life and death– Over 70% of wrecks involving a truck involve being distracted….doing something other than paying attention. Even eating while driving a truck can cause a wreck. Paying attention, with my mom, because exhausting. She did many things that would have harmed her every day, whether it be making a dangerous mistake in the kitchen to putting objects in food. Wandering away can also be deadly and requires constant attention to prevent. The constant paying attention requirement is one of the things cited by caregivers as a cause of exhaustion and a prompting factor for needing breaks. BUT, this is necessary and explains why nursing home memory units are locked down and why they should be fully staffed.
- Jargon– The link here is just one page I found about the jargon truck drivers use…or at the least used to use when CBs were much more needed than now. It was fascinating listening to Diane and her husband talk to fellow truckers about everything from the weather to road conditions to the location of speed traps. While I am sure some still have CBs, I am sure the cellphone world of calling and GPS/other apps has changed this paradigm. Some of the same applies to dementia. We use a lot of interesting shorthand and jargon in discussing the topic. Everything from the number/names of stages of the disease to symptom names to nursing home/doctor’s office verbiage is in code. Ask for clarification. Read. Watch YouTube. Ask around., Don’t be afraid to say “Can you explain that to me?”. I am an IT professional by trade and I have to constantly remind myself to use normal words in asking questions of computer users and in explaining solutions. The more you know, the less mystical this jargon will begin to seem.
- Blind spots-Trucks have blind spots. They just do. They are very long and it really doesn’t matter how many mirrors/view cameras it has, there are spots you just can’t see. The main one that comes to mind that is nearly universal is on the right side of the truck. When a truck in in the passing lane, DO NOT try to pass in the slow lane. There is a great chance he/she will not see you and/or, if distracted, may just turn on the blinker and start edging that way. Stay out of this area lest you scare them/yourself to death…or worse. In dementia, everything is a blind spot…but vision-wise this is particularly acute. The worse the disease progresses, the more focused on only right in front of them is possible. He or she CAN see anything within the reach of their vision’s abilities, but they can only process what is in their face. The ramifications: you need to gently come in the room and make eye contact before anything else. Even if you have to crawl on the ground to have eyes meet, do it. If you don’t, you risk scaring them as if you snuck up on them even if you were right to their side. Have you ever flippantly started easing over into the right lane and a car was there? The resulting “Oh Crud!!” is an everyday occurrence for someone struggling with situational/physical awareness and you do not want to make that harder than it already is.
- Two Trailers-I am amazed when I see trucks with two trailers. I mean, how in the world do you back into a dock without ending up in a weird alignment? They are true masters of the craft. Co-morbidity…having multiple conditions…is like a many-trailered mess for a patient….and most patients struggle with this. In fact, one site suggests that over 90% of patients with dementia also have one or more other significant conditions. These conditions more often exacerbate the dementia problem as well. Diabetes and stroke may even point to causes of dementia too. I believe that as bad as the numbers are in dementia statistics, these co-morbidities probably result in undercounting the true impact. Lastly, so much of the treatments in life that we require to fight some of these other conditions require clear thought…or constant care to administer. Even taking pills at the right time, for a person with dementia, is savagely challenging.
- Sleeping/bathroom– Nice trucks typically have all of the basic comforts of a tiny home, but on wheels. They often have a good sleeping area although “there is nowhere like home”. Bathroom-related stuff is a crapshoot, pardon the pun. Truck stops, while much better now compared to 30 years ago, are not home. The pressure to keep driving, the caffeine needed to stay alert, the irregular eating schedule/locations, and the stress of the job don’t make bathroom topics any better. In dementia, sleeping and bathroom issues are probably the biggest reasons why caregivers struggle and many give up. There is so much to consider and you won’t know until you get to that point. The Alzheimer’s Association help line (1-800-272-3900) can be an invaluable, 24/7 help on these and more topics.
- Teamwork makes the dream work– Driving a truck for a living isn’t as simple as buying/leasing a vehicle and putting out your shingle. You need to be trained and you need a team to help. You need dispatcher who can plan, solve problems, and think outside the box. You need someone certified in service. You need people to see the big picture. You need someone in sales/marketing to keep you busy. You need a team. Have I mentioned you need a team in dementia care too? Oh yes…every stinking article. 🙂 I do not beat this dead horse because I get paid by the word. I don’t get paid at all (insert joke here about getting what you paid for….). I beckon you to have a team because I know what it takes to take care of someone with this disease and none of us can do it perfectly by ourselves. We need breaks. We need experts in areas (Elder law lawyer comes to mind). We need medical demystifiers who can explain the jargon. We need folks like SeniorAge who can help in many ways from home modifications to other wellness/education classes to meals. We need others so that, as a team, we can do better and more. Plus we need a team so we don’t get ill. Find your team and love them. Today…
- Sometimes you need a monkey– I love the old trucker movies. I don’t know how the show “BJ and the Bear” and the movie “Every Which Way But Loose” thought that primates fit into trucking, but it worked and was fun to watch as a kid. (Pardon Clyde’s manners…his sanctification isn’t complete) If you are a caregiver, you need a monkey. You need someone who can come in and throw some poo and make you smile. You need someone who can break up the knife-cutting tension and remind you what is important. You need to laugh. You need fun. Get yourself a monkey…or better, a friend to monkey around with.
- The destination will get here…just keep the petal to the metal– These trucking shows, and trucking in general, boil down to one thing: getting from Point A to Point B and doing so safely. The route is often a long journey filled with potholes, speed traps, snow storms, and traffic jams. But there is joy to be found along the journey if we are on the lookout for it. Keep your eye on the prize….the finish….but keep watching for the world’s largest ball of string and the biggest tenderloin in Texas or the bass fishing museum just off the highway. There are moments of joy in the most mundane life has to offer if we grasp at them. But mostly, don’t waste this opportunity to cling on your Savior, who loves you and died for you and your loved one. Grow to trust and depend on Him more in your hard time because He cares. And lastly, love your loved one with all you have and enjoy the time you have with them on the road, because the final loading dock will be here sooner than you think…
Update: Nothing new to report with mom. I see her Thursday for my whopping 20 minutes. I wish they would move on from some of the restrictions and let the vaccinated visit the vaccinated in peace. 🙂
Runnin’ Til I’m Purple update: I ran a whopper Saturday…just over 17 miles. 🙂 Today, already, I did a 9.25 mile run on the treadmill. I am still over 250 pounds and would benefit from dropping another 30-40 by June. I am still as dad-bod as it gets, but I am closer than I was… Thank you for your encouragement and support. 🙂 The fundraiser is up to $1450 on a goal of $5280. I feel confident we will get there…with your and my help. 🙂