Reflections on 2019

I always look forward to a new year with some excitement.    I also face it with some twinges of trepidation.

Sharon and I continue our path on the new normal.

We are 4+ years into Sharon’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in June 2015.

Some of our milestones for 2019 were:

  • Taking a fun trip in early October to Michigan, Ontario, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.   Highlights included seeing Niagara Falls from the Canadian side: seeing nephew Matt and his wife Lindsey and their daughter Ella Grace; The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland; seeing my hometown Rochester, Michigan; and The Henry Ford (museum and plant tour) in Dearborn, Michigan.

 

  • Celebrating Sharon’s 66th birthday with her and our Houston-based Eat-a-Lot friends in Brenham, Texas, in late September.

 

  • Seeing a new neurologist in October:  Dr. Zilli, with the Biggs Alzheimer’s Institute in San Antonio.  He ordered an amyvid PET scan (for March 2020), to better understand Sharon’s prognosis.  He also ordered / recommended speech and occupational therapy sessions for Sharon, to help her maintain (possibly improve) her cognitive skills for as long as possible.

 

  • Based on Russell Gainer’s (Licensed Clinical Social Worker, LCSW) evaluation in September, Sharon stopped driving around her September 29 birthday.    While her mechanical skills for driving still seemed largely intact to me, he recommended that with her diminished cognitive skills, it was safest for her to stop driving.   Russell also pointed out that the loved ones closest to the person with dementia often overestimate their loved one’s skillsets.  Dr. Zilli, the neurologist, also confirmed this recommendation for Sharon not to drive, when we saw him a few weeks later.

 

  • We went bowling with the Big Ten Alumni Clubs (of San Antonio) in February.   Early in her third game, Sharon took a bad fall (she fell not because of imbalance issues – her balance remains intact – but a judgement issue of walking well past the foul line onto the very slick bowling lane), but she saved her head from injury by throwing out her left hand, to break her fall, but she incurred small fractures in her wrist and in her upper arm.    I think this event was fortuitous in some ways because it helped get me ready to help Sharon with her showers (while, her left arm/wrist/ hand were in a cast.    Since then, I have had to do a lot of prompting and showing Sharon what to do during her morning routines of showers, dressing, etc.

 

  • Sharon struggles finding the correct words at times to describe what she wants;  Her reading had been fine, but she struggled reading the closing out loud at a recent ALANON meeting.     Also, she forgets where / what certain things are.  For example, I might say to Sharon:  “Put that piece of paper in the trash”.  And, she does not remember that the trash can is behind the pantry door.   Then, if I say, that the trash is in the pantry, she might open the refrigerator door, next to the pantry door.

 

  • For all of 2019 (we started in late Nov 2018), we have attending once-weekly support group meetings at the Alzheimer’s Association .   For 1 1/2 hours on Thursday mornings, I go into one conference room, with a trained facilitator, and other caregivers (mostly spouses); while Sharon is in another conference room with a trained facilitator and others living with Alzheimer’s and / or dementia.   This has been a blessing for both of us.   We get and give much love here.

 

  • Starting January 1, 2019, I cut back working from 5 days (40 hours /week) to 4 days (32 hours /week), per week.   I take off on Thursdays to go to the Alzheimer’s support group meetings and for other appointments for Sharon, me, or both of us.    I feel bad leaving her at home alone (and, Russell Gainer, the Social Worker, recommends that she not be alone).   Therefore,  since mid-October, after we returned from our trip up north, I have paid caregivers (chauffers / companions), supplied by https://www.amadaseniorcare.com/north-san-antonio-senior-care/, that come to our home for 4 hour shifts from 10 am to 2 pm., to be with Sharon, while I am at work. I also have someone come from 4:30 pm – 8:30 pm on Wednesdays, so that I can attend leadership training from Coker United Methodist Church / Asbury Theological Seminary, held at Coker.

 

I hate Alzheimer’s.  I hate that it is robbing Sharon, drip by drip, of much of her being; and, I hate that it is robbing me and her family and friends of the best of her.

Friends and family may ask or think, what can I do?   You can help with your presence.   Offer to take Sharon on an outing with you.  Call her.  Write to her.  She still wants to be with people, beyond me,  son Steve, and paid care companions / care givers.  This also has the benefit of giving me a brief respite from my care-giving responsibilities.

Sharon has always been and continues to be a COGOPW – a Child Of God and a Person Of Worth.   I have the privilege of taking care of her as best I can with the help of caregivers, her family , and friends.

None of us knows what the new year and future will bring….

Nevertheless, I wish all of you reading this: Happy New Year and Happy New Decade!   And, may God bless you and keep you; shine his countenance upon you.; and give you peace and encouragement.

 

 

Drip by Drip

Most weekdays I leave our home to drive to work. And, usually Sharon makes our bed, after I have left. And, I appreciate her generosity in doing this.

During the past week, I found the bed like the first photo, on a couple of occasions. Sharon had almost everything perfect. But, she missed pouring the two large pillows, with pillow shams, on the bed (second photo where I added them when I got home from work).

I am not posting this tidbit to complain about Sharon’s bed-making skills; but, rather, I write about it to show, how drip by drip, the effects of Alzheimer’s are changing Sharon’s thinking and behavior.

This is part of our new normal.

Also, this past week, she did not eat well while I was at work. She eats best when I prepare meals for her, and/or we work on them together.

Further, for the last several weeks, I usually help Sharon figure out what outfit to wear each day.

Drip by drip….

Baseball Celebrations

In all professional sports, except Major League Baseball, the winning and losing teams shake hands; congratulate each other; etc., after a playoff series (often during regular season games too) is decided.

Not Major League Baseball. The winning team will congratulate each other on the field, but the losing team stays in their dugout and/or heads to the clubhouse.

Let’s change that in 2019. What do you think?

How can we get Major League Baseball to start a new tradition in 2019?!

⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️

Celebrate

I had the privilege to attend Sunday evening a reunion of the Celebrate Band and Service, from Coker United Methodist Church, at Brad and Linda Hickman’s home.   This 11:00 a.m. Sunday morning Service ended at Coker a couple of years ago.   Thus, it  was great to attend a revival of the service with fine music, inspirational words, and receive Holy Communion this evening.

I have inserted a video of part of one of the song’s at the service tonight.  Enjoy (if I can get it to upload okay)!

Mr. Cellophane

Last weekend, on Saturday, March 30, I went from bearded to clean shaven.   Not a lot of people noticed it.   No one at church on Sunday, commented about it.   I got one comment from a co-worker on Monday at work.   And, I was at a meeting Thursday evening where one man noticed it; and, another asked me:  “Did you get new glasses?”   (I give him credit for noticing something was different!).

I sometimes joke with my wife Sharon, that I remind myself of the character, Armos Hart, in “Chicago”, the Broadway musical and movie, who sings “Mr. Cellophane”.   I tell Sharon that no one sees me.   I don’t truly believe that, but sometimes………

What changes do you make in your appearance that no one seems to notice?

A Tradition Unlike Any Other

I like that San Antonio is hosting the Valero Texas Open this weekend.  We have some big name golfers here, such as Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler. Nevertheless, what I really look forward to this time of year, is the Masters Tournament, from Augusta, Georgia,  coming up the second weekend of April.

For months we have been hearing the ads on CBS with Jim Nantz intoning: “The Masters: a tradition unlike any other.”   As I kid I remember the battles that Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus had at the Masters.   And, I loved watching and cheering for Tiger Woods to win the Masters and other major golf championships. I believed that Tiger Woods was a cinch to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 majors.  But, alas, Tiger has been stuck at 14 majors.  I  still hope that Tiger can win another major before his golf career ends.

Also, this weekend, I will be cheering on my college team Michigan State in the Final Four of men’s basketball.  I have hope that the Spartans will win it all, for their first National Championship since 2000 (and the first for the Big Ten since that year).   I like teams from Texas to do well in the Final Four, but I will be cheering on Michigan State against Texas Tech in the semifinals on Saturday evening, April 6.

grass green golf golf ball
Photo by tyler hendy on Pexels.com

 

More Baseball

1968

The Detroit Tigers won the American League Pennant in 1968.   They faced the powerful St. Louis Cardinals, led by ace Bob Gibson in the World Series.  Gibson had an incredibly low Earned Run Average (ERA) for the regular season of 1.12

The Tiger’s regular season ace was Denny McLain, who went 31-6 in the regular season.  My Dad and I were at Tiger Stadium when McLain won his 30th game!  But, in the World Series, McLain went 1-2.

The Tigers fell behind in the Series 3 games to 1 game.   But, they rallied behind lefty Mickey Lolich, who won Games 2, 5, and 7, besting Gibson in Game 7.

And, there was great joy in Detroit and in the Tinnon’s home in Rochester, Michigan!

mickey_lolich_1975