Hi all! Happy Friday…uhhh….errr….yes, Friday to every one of you. It is still hard to figure out what day it is these days, especially having added a partial day Saturday to my work schedule. I am a creature of habit and, despite the fact that my values statement at work states that I value change, it is hard. I value change in so much as I recognize its value…but I value getting a root canal too for the same reason. (Sorry Annette…too soon?) Anyway, today is day 85 of the nursing home lock down that I dubbed so long ago Shawshank Re:Dementia. That dreaded number 85 does call to mind another 85…1985, the year of the Cardinals v Royals I-70 Series that nobody outside of the Show-Me State likely cared about, but to us was a true Hatfield McCoy hootenanny. Here is the poivotal Game 6 for your viewing pleasure and/or anguish:
There were many pivotal moments of this series, but this one is by far the most memorable:
Watch highlights here:
With these videos in mind, I present you:
10 Things You Can Learn About Dementia from the 1985 World Series
- Don’t Let One Thing be the Only Thing– I am a Cardinal fan. Please let me make that point clear. The 1985 Cardinals were a far superior team to the Royals that year, statistically and in a position-by-position look, but the Royals won, fair and square. The call in the second video is blamed by many of my fellow Cardinal fans, but there were far more pivotal moments in which the Cardinals should have still won…but “we” let one event define our thinking. There was a bad call, shown above, that changed the trajectory of the remaining game of the series…but the better team didn’t overcome…they gave up. In dementia caregiving, you need a care team. It is not optional. You cannot do it alone. Maybe Jack Clark was the only true power hitter on the 85 Cardinals team, but it was the speed, the defense, and the amazing pitching…the team effort…that led to winning over 100 games and making the World Series. You are Jack Clark. You are a very, very important piece of your care team, but you cannot go it alone! Gather the help from family, from professionals, from the Alzheimer’s Association, perhaps your favorite blogger, and stick together! If a family member doesn’t immediately help, or they let you down, do not give up on them. Extend grace quickly and get them involved again as soon as possible. Trust me, it is likely a family member will let you down in this situation…but don’t let that cause you to give up.
- Seniors Matter– Team owners Mr. and Mrs. Ewing Kauffman (Royals) and August A. Busch, Jr. (Cardinals) threw out the ceremonial first pitch in each team’s first series home game. Both of these families were advanced in years and did amazing things for their communities. They were, arguably, the most important philanthropists and community leaders in their respective towns and the locations wouldn’t have been the same without them. Seniors are critical to culture.They are the storehouses of experience and wisdom. When headlines and talking heads complain about the response to COVID-19 and say “Well, it really only effects seniors”, it should make us mad. Society, which has lost its Judeo-Christian values including the inherent value of every single person, seems to regard the value of different types of folks differently than others partially based of what they can do for society. Knowing that we are ALL made in the image and likeness of God is something that we have forgotten as we have strayed away from the faith of our founding fathers. We need seniors and we must honor and protect them as they age, dementia or otherwise.
- Music Matters– Holy cow! Did you see the list of musicians who sang the National Anthem in the 1985 World Series??? Here they are, in order: Reba McEntire (Note), Melba Moore (Note), Lou Rawls (Note), Jennifer Holliday (Note), The Gatlin Brothers (Note), Glen Campbell (Tragically died of Alzheimer’s), and The Oak Ridge Boys (Note). Every one of these folks are iconic and each has a personal story regarding dementia or has raised money for the cause. Musicians matter and the music itself matters. Seniors with dementia, when they hear period music (from their hayday, if you will) light up. I have seen it dozens of times with the Sweet 17 and have written about it dozens of times at the Cornbread table. Music and musicians matter…
- President Reagan– After the Royals won the 1985 series, they visited then president Ronald Reagan in the White House for a chocolate celebration cake and some words with the POTUS. They also presented the president with a Royals jacket, a baseball bat and a 1985 World Series hat. Reagan, who died of Alzheimer’s following a long, brave battle, said about the team “You proved to America what a never-say-die spirit can do.” Read Reagan’s amazing farewell letter here or here. Whether in the Cold War or in his battle with the disease, Reagan embodied a never-say-die spirit.
- It was a long series with many twists and turns.- The series went the full 7 games although the Cardinals barely showed up in game 7, losing big. The season, of course, was long too. Dementia’s season is often long too, with many ups and downs. While the average lifespan of a diagnosed patient may be 8-10 years, it is not unheard of for them to live considerably longer. It is degenerative and the outcome, until we get a better handle on it, is death…but expect a long ride.
- Strange Accidents happen.- The 1985 series was dramatically altered by the fluke injury to Vince Coleman when, of all things, the tarp machine broke his tibia. Vincent Van Go, as he was nicknamed, was the fastest man on the field and had stolen over 100 bases that year. He was the catalyst on offense and defense due to his speed…and a really slow machine took him out. Read the interesting story here. One of the warning signs of dementia is memory loss that disrupts daily living. It is not uncommon to forget what will hurt you or have lapses in judgement leading to injuries that seem unfathomable to a non-dementia-damaged mind. Mom didn’t get hurt at home, but only because she was watched so closely. She nearly swallowed marbles that she kept safe in her drink. She nearly electrocuted herself with a spoon and an outlet. Her stories aren’t uncommon and are a big reason why memory units exist.
- Women matter– The first pitch of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series was by Sally Ride, the first woman to fly in space. She was a true pioneer in the field and gave women everywhere another great example to look to as someone who could accomplish anything. It was a great loss for woman (and humanity in general) when she died in 2012 of pancreatic cancer. More die of Alzheimer’s than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Looking for a women’s health crisis to eradicate…here it is!
- Tempers can flare– One of my favorite players in Cardinals’ history was Joaquin Andujar. A two-time 20-game winner, “One Tough Dominican” as he was called, had a rough series, made worse by being ejected in Game 7 and taking out his anger on a toilet with a Louisville Slugger. He was fined, suspended, and, honestly, was never the same. He passed away in 2015. His co-ace, John Tudor, also a favorite of mine and newly inducted into the Cardinals hall of fame, was so mad after losing game 7 that he punched an electric fan, injuring himself. He went on to pitch with some success the next year, but was statistically never the same again. Dementia can cause tempers to flare too. The patient with dementia gets very frustrated with the loss of control, the inability to do things that he or she made have done for decades, and for 10,000 other reasons…and it may manifest itself in anger. Here are some useful links in this area: Link Link Link Link . My mom had relatively few bouts of anger, but they did happen, especially when the staff tried to give her a bath earlier in her stay in the memory unit. Here is a good video by Teepa Snow addressing these behaviors:
A few basic tips on dealing with anger: Talk more calmly, don’t escalate by getting louder. Redirect the patient’s attention to something less stressful. Use music as a stress relief. Empathize and love knowing that the anger is more frustration with the condition rather than directed at you.
- Unsung heroes– The Cardinals, while an excellent team, may not have won their division had it not been for the newly acquired, but washed up veteran Cesar Cedeno. Jack Clark, the slugger who provided much of the home run power for the Birds, hurt a muscle in his rib cage. Cedeno replaced Clark, if only for a month, and played like he was 20 again, hitting an incredible .434 (33-for-76) with six home runs over 28 games. He was truly an unsung hero. In dementia, the memory unit nurses are truly unsung heroes. These men and women work extraordinarily long hours, seeing many, many pass away in the process. Today, in the pandemic, they are some of the only ones who can share love with the patients and they deserve our praise. Another group deserving similar praise are the in-home caregiving relatives. The 24/7/365 caregivers who seldom, if ever, get to leave, to watch TV, to rest, or to have peace, do it for the love of their loved one. According to the Alz.org Facts and Figures report, they provide “18.6 billion hours of unpaid care to people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, at an economic value of $244 billion.” They are the very definition of heroes, and few even know they exist….except our community. You are amazing!
- I am still unhappy about the outcome…and wish I could change it. The 1985 Cardinals team remains my favorite team. I have been a fan since the mid-1970s, so that says a lot. I would love to change the many events that led to the World Series loss, and subsequent teasing by Royals’ fans the next couple of decades. But, even with the terrible call mentioned above, there were a bunch of reasons why it didn’t happen. Facts are facts, but I don’t have to like it. I hate dementia…but not in a casual, sports fan kind of way. This disease is personal and I hate it. I will do whatever it takes to eradicate it from the face of the Earth and I suspect you will too. It steals, it kills, it saddens, and it ruins…and I hate it. I won’t quit until we finally #EndALZ.
Baseball is baseball. I love the sport, the excitement, the stats, and the history. I miss it dearly these days with the pandemic and selfish unions preventing us from seeing anything from them…but it is what it is. Nothing compares to how I feel about this disease nor now much I care for each of you. 1985 was amazing…but today is today and we need a cure. Let’s get to it, friends. Then some sweet day, when they break out the white Alzheimer’s Walk flower and annonce the cure is found, join me in celebrating like this:
Update: Mom is about the same. I didn’t get a video chat today although I have had a few this week. She is tired and wearing out. I expect the end of her season is sooner than later…I mean, she “celebrated” her year of hospice care this week… Some sweet day she will get to walk the streets of gold and maybe she will run into some long gone Cardinals there in the process. We will see her next Wednesday at lunch for a window-side picnic. Until then…we love, we serve, we help, we share, and we fight to #EndALZ.
Note: I forgive the umpire for breaking my heart like a clubhouse toilet and/or electric fan. 😉 And Congrats Royals…I hope you choke on the trophy. 😉