Hi all! Another day in paradise. (lol) I trust all of you are holding on. Please know that I pray for our group as a whole and many individually. These were challenging times before this little big thing came through and killed 92,000, many of whom are our folks. Keep your head up! Brighter days will come. We are 70 days since a visit…hopefully the ban will be lifted soon.
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, my latest past time is to enjoy America’s pastime by listening to vintage World Series footage from years gone by. It has been quite fun although I am still on Game One of the 1964 series. It should not come to a shock to you at all that even my fun reminds me of dementia. Here is how:
Top Five Things You Can Learn About Dementia from the 1964 World Series
- It is never too late– Until the 1969 MLB season, there were two playoff teams, if you will: the winner of the National League and the winner of the American League. That meant that some very good teams would seldom, if ever, make the playoffs. These days they let several teams in and even teams that couldn’t win their division, dubbed “wild card” teams, get to play in the playoffs. (Everyone gets a trophy, you know…). But in our faithful 1964 season, the Cardinals were 11 games behind the Phillies on August 23rd. Time to pack up the gear and call it a season, eh? Nope…The Cardinals went on a 17-5 streak from over the next 3 weeks to make it close, but then lost three of the next four games and were 6.5 games out with only 13 games to play. The Reds and Giants were also hanging around, more often than not ahead of the Redbirds. The Phillies had entered into an utter free fall, losing 10 straight. After lots of excitement, the Cardinals ended their 18 year World Series drought, getting the fortune of playing the most prolific franchise in all of sports: the dreaded New York Yankees.
Mom, right now, is 100 games behind, with 101 left to play, and every team in baseball is ahead of her. I will never give up until the last pitch is tossed, but I will admit, things look rough for the home team. 🙁 Her hospice nurse, just yesterday, said that she is still pretty well physically, but is slowly but surely becoming less responsive. The good news: mom knows the One who is undefeated and conquered death itself, so her championship still awaits. Until then, we love her and comfort her as best we can through the window, over the internet, and in our prayer.
- Humor and music can help remove stress– Bob Uecker, nicknamed by Johnny Carson as “Mr. Baseball”, was famous as a player not for his offensive skill (a lifetime .200 hitter), but for his leadership and ability to lighten things up and keep the team loose with his humor. In the 1964 series warm-ups, Uecker, seeing his team was stressed out even n while playing at home, grabbed a tuba that the marching band that was warming up the crowd was using, and started playing for the fans. He went on to shag fly balls with said tuba in the outfield. Notoriously tight Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, not as much in the mood for laughs, deducted tuba damage from Uecker’s World Series check.
Mom has always been the master of utilizing humor and music when things were stressful. Even now, in hospice-monitored, end-stage dementia, my mom will lighten us up by sticking her tongue out, making a face, or making funny sounds. She loves to see us smile. Until a few months ago, she also played piano very frequently to entertain the ladies of the Sweet 17 and lighten the mood. These two tools, humor and music, are gifts from God to help us unwind. Are you stressed, caregiver? Put on some nice music. A little depressed? Grab some comedy. Need something funny and in theme? Here ya go: Link.
- Sometimes the little things get missed– Curt Flood, tied with Yankees’ Bobby Richardson for the shortest man on the field in the series (at 5’9″, maybe…), came up big time and time again in the ’64 season, winning a Gold Glove for his defense and hitting a robust .311, leading the league with 211 hits. He was so good as leadoff, and with Lou Brock batting 2nd, that 3rd place hitter Ken Boyer won the NL MVP with 119 RBIs. (Boyer’s brother, Clete, played for the opponent in the ’64 WS).
In dementia, it is easier to see the big issues like forgetfulness, falls, and confusion, but miss other subtle warning signs. Sometimes being socially withdrawn is a sign that something is wrong. It may be simply not wanting to get out into traffic, but it could also be a sign that your loved one is afraid of their dementia secret getting found out. Judgement problems can also be an overlooked sign. Did your loved one give a large amount of money away to someone they barely knew? Talk to your doctor if the warning signs, whether big or small, appear.
- Don’t be intimidated, and don’t give up– The 1964 Yankees won 99 games in the regular season. They had a stacked lineup, led by Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Joe Pepitone, and Elston Howard. On the mound, they had an outstanding cast, led by Whitey Ford, one of the greatest lefties of all time. The Yankees were an intimidating, powerhouse franchise, having already won 20 World Series’ entering the ’64 season. The Cardinals hadn’t made it to the Fall Classic in nearly 20 years, during which the Yankees won and incredible 10 championships. It would be easy for them to give up and be thankful to have made it. They didn’t.
Don’t give up. Don’t give up, caregiver, when the rest of your family is long on suggestions and short on help. Don’t give up when your loved one is up again all night and finally sleeps at noon. Don’t give up when your respite worker doesn’t show up. Don’t give up when you have no choice but to get help from a nursing home. There is always some help to be found. Call the Alzheimer’s Association. Call the Area Agency on Aging in your area. Call your church or your civic organization. Convene a care team and delegate jobs. Sometimes folks want to help, but don’t know how to get started. Don’t give up, friend.
- The battle is long, but the reward is great– Spoiler alert. The Cardinals won the 1964 World Series 4 games to 3. Bob Gibson, the hard luck loser in Game 2, went on to win two games and the series MVP. Gibson pitched all 10 innings in Game 5 and had 13 strikeouts, then pitched another complete game 2 games later in the clincher, winning despite giving up 3 home runs. Despite winning the series, the Cardinals were outscored 33-32. What a battle!
Unlike other diseases and/or leading killers, folks with dementia have an average life expectancy of between 8-10 years. It has been referred to as “The Long Goodbye” because it is so slow and deliberate as it takes it away all. When you have a loved one diagnosed with the disease, prepare for a marathon, not a sprint. My mom was diagnosed over a decade ago with “a mild form of dementia”. As I have said a million times, gather the team…your care team. Elicit the help of family, friends, church family, neighbors, organizations like SeniorAge (Area Agency on Aging) and the Alzheimer’s Association, an elder law lawyer, and anyone else who can help….then get to work preparing. Prepare for respite help even before you “need” it. Prepare your finances. Document and share your loved one’s memories. Keep fighting the prevention battle with your loved one: eat a heart healthy diet, manage that blood pressure, read and learn, listen to (and create) music, exercise the mind, body and soul, and dig in your heels. You have entered the proverbial “Knockdown Drag Out”, and minus a miracle or a cure, the results will be a loss. However, this journey isn’t all bad. Here are some positives:
- You can and will grow closer to your loved one as you prove that you will always be there.
- You can serve him/her in a way that others can better understand the love of Christ.
- You will learn a lot that you can use later to help others in the same situation
- You will be strengthened through the trial.
Heaven awaits, believer, keep fighting to the last pitch. Keep playing the tuba when others cower. Keep “fearing not“. Someday…some sweet day, this mess will be over and we can all meet and celebrate the victory won by Christ in the home prepared for us…one without tears, without sin, and without a need to fight to #EndALZ. Until then, grab a bat and get warmed up. The other team is really tough, and we won’t win ’em all. The good news, I suppose, is we only need to take 4 of 7…
Update: Not much to say beyond what I mentioned earlier about her hospice nurse. Mom is tired. She sleeps 21-22 hour a day. But she is strong and is still fighting. I can do nothing less.