Tag Archive | time

A Minute – A Lifetime

By Cindy Sproles

It’s true. In a minute you can find a lifetime. The problem is we rarely take the minute. I know from experience, and one that made me rethink, what was important.

I grew up listening to the stories of a wonderful man named Harold. Every Sunday when we’d enter the church he’d snag your hand and pull you to one side.

“Did I ever tell you about the time…”

As a teen, his stories rarely interested me. He’d grown up playing in the same schoolyard as my mother. I’d heard her stories about swinging on trees, playing basketball and sticking my father-in-law in the backside with a hatpin. So I really had no desire to listen to Harold tell his version of the story.

It was never a question of loving sweet Harold. Everyone loved him and you could count on that warm hug every Sunday morning knowing it was genuine and heartfelt. The point is I didn’t really listen.

I grew up, moved away and when I returned home some 15 years later, Harold had aged. He walked hunkered over, his smile was not as vibrant thanks to aging and arthritis, but his stories had not changed.

That first day back at church my kids bounded through the door and who was there…but Harold? True to form, he snagged my youngest pulled him close and introduced himself. He promptly poked a piece of gum in my son’s hand (Harold might have had the same stories but he eventually learned bribery worked if he wanted to share his adventures), and he began to spin a tale. My son was completely enthralled. Sunday after Sunday, Harold met my boys at the door of the church and the pre-church sermon began. The kids thought he was…well…as they put it…the berries.

My love for writing had bloomed and I told myself, I really need to write these adventures down. Not only was Harold’s stories fun, full of antics and adventure, but they always, bar none, had a moral — one that resonated with my children.

One Sunday after church, I put my arm around Harold and asked, “Can I write your stories? I’d love to write the Adventures of Harold.”

His eyes brightened and the deep, sunken wrinkles around his mouth stretched into a smile.”You bet. Have I got a book full of ’em.”

“Let’s meet on Wednesday before church. I’ll bring a recorder and you can just talk till your voice quits.”

Wednesday came. I loaded a tape recorder, paper and pen, plus the camera and headed to the church. I waited and waited. No Harold. “Where’s Mr. H, Mom?” My boys ran to the window and kept watch for his truck. After an hour passed my stomach grew weak. That nagging intuition that something wasn’t quite right.

You can guessed the outcome. Harold had passed away. In a minute, a lifetime of stories…joy…fun…and adventure was gone.

It only takes a moment to take in the value of our seniors. Years of wisdom, decades of decisions – good and bad.  An era of history waits for us to simply ask. Simply listen.

I learned my lesson. A painful lesson. That was some 25 years ago but from that day forward, I’d never rush through anyone’s story again. They would always have my full attention. Especially those coming from our elders. The loss of Harold was sad but it was a shame I’d never taken the time to write down his stories…his legacy. His words of wisdom guided my boys and now that they are adults, they can still recount the joy and direction Harold offered.

Our seniors are golden and it’s sad that we as Americans cannot find time for them. We are one of the few countries who put little to no value on our aging. Eastern countries, African nations, European countries hold a deep respect for their elderly, bringing them tight into their family unit and caring fully for them.

 

Start the change. Spend a minute and take in a lifetime. The reward is greater than you can imagine.

Anger and Dementia: Both Sides of the Coin

Time can be the enemy

By Cindy Sproles

The clock of dementia holds a pendulum that swings both directions. Not only does the backlash affect the patient but it affects the family as well. An otherwise docile adult may become violent at the simplest change. Words become their arrows of hurt and anger burns in each one that pierces the heart.

 For families, the difficulty comes in understanding why a loved one would be so brutal especially when family members are making every effort to please the patient. The first step in grasping hold of incoming flares of anger is accepting the lash outs are not personal. It’s the disease speaking and acting, not the person we love.

 While patients may experience a vast array of behavioral changes from wandering, hallucinations, insomnia, and even aggression—their behaviors can be worsened by their environment and their own inability to deal with stress and frustration. Imagine yourself in the patient’s position, unable to articulate needs, handle normally simple tasks or even remember their next sentence.  Finding the trigger for sudden outbursts takes time but once family members hone in on the cause, they are able to take steps to avoid or alleviate “hot” spots.

Though family members cannot always control their loved one they can, many times, control the situation and environment that trigger outbursts. By locating the agitations or points of disorientation in their loved one, family members can help manage a comforting and caring place for their parent. Lessening loud noises, dim lighting and even certain  television programs, family members can ease some of the outside environmental triggers and reduce sudden stresses.

Remaining claim as a family member or caregiver is important. This is where the pendulum swings in the other direction. Not only do patients experience anger but family members or extended caregivers suffer this same frustration.  Continued repetitive questions from patients, frustration in trying to understand a need or repeated scares from wandering parents raise the stress levels to a new high for family members.

According to medical professionals and in-home caregiver companies, families, on average, have one adult child who maintains the bulk of parental care. The burden, even when done with great love, is taxing. Family caregivers normally have their own personal family to care for as well and by adding the additional weight of parental care, it isn’t long before anger and resentment rises.

So, how do families manage this dilemma? First and foremost, they remind themselves daily, this is a disease not a personal attack. Lash outs are not a sign parents do not love or care for their families. Secondly, provide a weekly break for the family caregiver away from the patient. Everyone needs time to rest and the job of caregiver is a demanding job.  Hire professional caregivers to assist in the care of your loved one. Companies such as Comfort Keepers can provide that needed respite for family caregivers.

Communication is imperative—continued dialogue with siblings, physicians and therapists helps manage the onset of anger.

As the holidays approach, remember the mixed emotions that trail in the wake. The holidays, though overall a joyful time, also drudge up past losses of spouses or children as well the hustle of shopping, change and unexpected visitors. Prepare your loved one, maintain as normal an environment as possible and remember, roll with the flow.

The disease takes its toll. Cling to the joyful memories of parents when care was easy and take time away from the situation to let emotions ease.

Anger is part of the disease but dealing with it in an effective and loving way is possible. Seek further information on anger and dementia for both parents and families from the Alzheimer’s Association at http://www.alzfdn.org .