Announcement: A Hopeful Appeal

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While driving across the country to return from our Pacific Crest Trail journey, we stopped in at the University of Maryland for Cindy to have another round of cognitive tests and scans. As we left the Neuroimaging Center at the … Continue reading

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Announcement: Moving Forward with Hope for Alzheimer’s

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This blog reports on two journeys that represent Hope for Alzheimer’s in different ways. The first journey was a 5,000 mile, year long hike of the American Discovery Trail. The public purpose at the time was to promote the virtues … Continue reading

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Holding Hands

While on some errands right before coming to Florida for our “exercise program,” Cindy and I were behind a car with a license plate that ended in “YYY.” I could not help but comment: “That car has a lot of questions.” To somewhat my surprise, Cindy laughed at my joke. I asked her if she knew what I was talking about. She struggled to reply to the direct question as usual, but continued to smile and pointed to the license plate while trying to say the words.

Juxtapose that with what happened our first day at our timeshare in Orlando. We spent a couple hours unpacking and settling in for our long stay, then we went grocery shopping. We walked to a nearby shopping center, stopped at a Subway for that evening’s meal, bought about a week’s worth of food supplies, then started walking back.

I always hold Cindy’s hand now while walking. When we were hiking the Pacific Crest Trail the pathway kept her focused; in an open, populated area she needs a guiding hand both to keep her going in the right direction and to simply keep her going. If I hold her left hand our hands are usually kept low. If I hold her right hand our elbows are often crooked and the hands elevated, because her mind is stuck on holding a walking stick in that position. Of course, holding hands also is a good way to reassure Cindy of my continued affection for her.

As we walked back from the shopping center a colorful, peaceful twilight approached with the setting Florida sun. We walked in silence, me clasping Cindy with a crooked elbow on the one hand, carrying bags of food low in the other. People might have judged us to either be tourists or homeless. Cindy interrupted my meditative walk by calmly asking: “Do we have a place to stay tonight?”

She asked the question without struggling, perfectly formed words in a perfectly formed sentence. She could do so because she had not been put on the spot by another’s question, nor was there any urgency or self-doubt behind her own. As to the latter, one might think a person to have some urgency if they are wondering where they will stay as they walk a major city road at twilight. Yet Cindy is an Expedition Woman. She was not the least bit concerned because she trusted I had everything figured out, even if what I “figured out” was camping in a city park with our sleeping bags. Been there; done that. She seemed to be perfectly fine in all respects except for not being able to remember settling into our timeshare that same afternoon.

This reveals the fickleness of Alzheimer’s. The mind can interpret and understand on the one hand but have trouble focusing and remembering on the other. Now that we’ve been at our timeshare for awhile Cindy does not wonder where we will be sleeping. Even remembering is possible for someone with advanced Alzheimer’s if there is enough constant reinforcement. As the fog continues to envelop Cindy’s mind my hope is that, with enough constant reinforcement such as holding hands, my love remains fixed in her memories until the end.

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Stressed v Depressed

Cindy asked me what I was grinning about. I replied: “my backpacker wife.” We were at a Brazilian buffet near our timeshare in Orlando and she was eating the food I cut up on her plate with her fingers, something a backpacker might do without a care. Cindy smiled back at my reply, pleased with being called a backpacker.

In truth there has not been a lot to smile about. We came to Orlando last year at this time as an item on Cindy’s bucket list, to be snowbirds. At the time I thought we would not be back had an attitude of closure. Now we are back for the sake of exercising in a warmer climate and my attitude is aiming to be back again next year, with the hope that we can be back again next year.

Being down here has relieved me of the stress I was experiencing at home. There were too many responsibilities and undesirable situations I was balancing. I know too well the impact stress has on health and I’ll take a bit of sadness in trade for awhile. The sadness stems from witnessing the decline in Cindy, more pronounced in comparison with one intermittent adventure to the next. These seem to be the two options these days: be stressed at home or depressed on an adventure away from home.

Stress and depression are unhealthy opposites. Indeed, antidepressants have led to anxiety disorders. Back when work and family problems first presented themselves to Cindy our (former) primary care physician prescribed an antidepressant for her. Back then I was in the habit of just going along with a doctor’s recommendation without doing my own research, yet I should have rebelled against that diagnosis from the start. People following this blog and/or my Facebook page (even more photos are on the Facebook page) have seen how warmly Cindy smiles. She simply is not a depressed person. However, the hiker once known as the “Go Go Go Gal” is prone to stress. I smartened up within a couple of months and got her off the medication, but perhaps by then it was too late.

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Depression does present a problem for memory and perhaps Alzheimer’s, but in this regard is the lesser of the two unhealthy evils. A recent study I shared on my Facebook page revealed that the memories of people with and without depression both suffered while they were having depressive thoughts, yet neither category suffered with their memory when they were not having such thoughts. In other words, we can recover from memory loss from being depressed more easily than from being stressed.

As for me, I’m no more a depressed person than Cindy. I’ve been called the eternal optimist by friends. I would not even categorize my current thoughts as “depressive” so much as simply “sad.” I’ll trade “sad” for “stressed” any day, so I’ll do my best to have us enjoy being snowbirds once again. May we be back next year.

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Brain Health Checklist – Vitamins

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Most people should be getting the vitamins they need with a healthy diet. There is a possibility of getting too much vitamins through supplements, particularly fat soluble ones like Vitamins D and E, which is a strong argument for getting … Continue reading

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Brain Health and Statins

On my Facebook page I’ve shared a couple of articles cautioning against the use of statins because of their effect on brain health. I received a comment that suggested statins might actually decrease the risk of dementia. From what I … Continue reading

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Brain Smoothie and Brain Soup Recipes

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I have emphasized the anti-inflammatory, low glycemic and healthy microbiome goals of a good diet, all of which in turn facilitates brain health. These goals sometimes are at odds. Some fruits curb inflammation but are high glycemic, other fruits are … Continue reading

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Humanity Hiker Facebook Page

Besides reporting on our own experiences with Alzheimer’s I share articles I come across regarding brain health. I do this on my Facebook page simply because it is a lot easier to do it that way. Some recent articles had to do with diet, which is what I’ve been reporting on here. I figure that makes this a good time to point out that link. If you’ve had trouble with the link in the past it should be fixed now.

Humanity Hiker Facebook Page

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Brain Health Checklist – Supplements

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I consider a supplement as something you can’t get from your normal food diet. For many years the only supplement I took was glucosamine for my overused joints. Now that I’m covering all bases on my Brain Health Checklist, Cindy … Continue reading

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My Hope for Cindy

This is the traditional time for resolutions. Resolutions seldom seem to hold; instead I have a new hope, in keeping with the Hope for Alzheimer’s theme. This is a hope for how Cindy can live out her life.

Those who have read past blog entries know I’m sincere when I say life is more about the quality than the quantity. I don’t wish people “safe travels,” I wish them “happy travels.” In our preoccupation with safety and security as a society we have become less courageous, less kind over recent decades. It’s not just a practical matter that I’m more focused on Cindy’s quality of life, rather than quantity.

My hope for Cindy stems from our experience with my Mom when she had Alzheimer’s. Taking care of her during the first five years of our marriage was the reason why we ended up in the house I was raised in. Others observed that we improved Mom’s quality of life while we were here … or at least we did until about this time 24 years ago.

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Mom became melancholy with advancing dementia, but was excited about the prospects of her son Dave coming up for Christmas in 1990. Then she had a stroke a few days before Christmas. The stroke was actually a minor incident with no lasting physical impact, but the consequential events from that stroke were life changing.

Mom was ready to come out of the hospital on Christmas Day. As is our tradition, we planned to be celebrating Christmas with Cindy’s family that day, while brother Dave would be celebrating with brother Ernie up here in Norfolk. We assumed they would pick Mom up from the hospital to spend Christmas with them. They assumed that as Mom’s caregiver we would pick her up and bring her to them.

Instead, Mom sat in a hospital waiting room the whole day, sitting in soiled pants for much of that time. When she got home she stopped eating. After about a week we sent her back to the hospital to revive her. From the hospital she went to a nursing home, where she spent the remaining few months of her life, growing increasingly morose towards the end. Particularly disturbing to me was she died with no family nearby; she passed away with a relative stranger holding her hand.

That end to Mom’s life haunts me ever since. With foresight I would have let Mom end her life the way she was choosing to do at home, trying our best to feed her but not forcing anything. Then again, with foresight I would have double checked to make sure who was picking her up at the hospital on Christmas Day.

Ah, but it’s only hindsight that is 20/20. I do not know how events will play out with Cindy. For that matter, I don’t know that I would do things differently about reviving Mom even with foresight going for me. Keeping a loved one alive even against their wishes is a powerful instinct. I cannot know how events will play out, how decisions will be made, either on Cindy’s or my own end. All I can do is hope.

Other people’s hope for Cindy, at least expressed to me, focuses on how much longer she will live. I’m focused on quality over quantity, even in regards to pursuing all the items on the Brain Health Checklist I’m compiling. My hope is for Cindy to have a high quality of life until near the very end, for her to be able to perceive and chuckle at my corny jokes and childish antics up until the time that she passes away with me nearby for comfort. Whether that goes on for a few more months or a few more years is not the point, just that she passes on feeling how well loved she has been her whole life on earth.

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