Thanks for the Memories

The only good thing about it is that you eventually don’t remember you have it.” That’s what I’ve jokingly told several patients over the years as we have discussed Alzheimer’s dementia.  Many times we all attempt to make light of subjects that we find just too painful or uncomfortable to discuss without some humor mixed into it so it is not so disheartening.  When seeing someone with memory loss who is afraid and they know they are losing their memory, it does sometimes help to get a few laughs when asking if they remembered to take their medication that helps them remember.  This is one disease that most people fear getting, but we really have no control over it and in those cases it is better to reject fear and accept what we cannot control or prevent with any certainty.  Researchers are desperately trying to find a way to control it better and prevent it somehow, but there is still not a lot more available now than it was a decade ago. More information is available and new drugs are being tested although it is not yielding any practical improvements in treatment or definite means of prevention yet.

I have been practicing long enough now that I have had the privilege of getting to know several patients over the years who used to have all of their mental faculties and I’ve sadly watched as Alzheimer’s dementia has been diagnosed while the accompanying slow decline in mental function ensues.  A recent patient came in for follow up with her daughter and after we addressed the concerns of that visit, I looked into her eyes and could see a glimmer of who I used to know as such a caring, vivacious person.  Her look was one in which she appeared to mildly strain to almost remember some things of recent years, but was resigned to not knowing and being confused about her current state.  I gave her a big hug as if to let her know it was okay and that she was loved anyway; she had a smile then and it was like a small reminder went off in her mind.  I can remember back just a few years ago when I regularly was the recipient of her wonderful jellies each year; I still have some of it and now treasure it each time I open one of those small jars because I know I will not get them anymore from her. 

Even though it is difficult to see these patients succumb to the awful ravages of dementia, it is even more difficult, if not being actually torturous, for the children and/or spouse who care for them.  Most caretakers end up in the hospital themselves due to such great stress upon them during the years of time it takes to care for their loved ones whom they eventually do not know anymore.  They live for those short moments when some recollection occurs and they can relate to one another like they used to do, but then those short flashes of what used to be disappear completely and it is like taking care of a stranger to them again.  For those of you who have dealt with this, you certainly know about how devastating this disease really is to everyone involved.  For those who know of someone who is trying to care for someone who has Alzheimer’s dementia, I encourage you to take some time to reach out to them and offer to help them have a day off of their caretaking role so they can do something they might need to do, or to just get some rest.  Another often neglected thing nowadays is to drop by for some coffee or tea so you can sit with them and just listen.  I can guarantee they probably could use someone to talk with intelligently and to just know that you care about them. 

Let us give thanks while we can for when we are healthy and able to work because the time will come too soon for all of us when we cannot.  A strong community is one that is thankful and one that will reach out to help each other, especially those who are the most vulnerable.  May God bless you during this Thanksgiving season.


Conservative Backlash or Bow Down

The major media talking heads have been all jockeying to couch Romney’s loss in terms that are the most favorable to their own biases.  There is an array of attitudes from downright depressed and despondent to outright maddening rage.  It is the usual display of emotions that we all experience when there is a loss: (1) denial, followed by (2) anger, (3) bargaining, and then finally, (4) acceptance; there is wide variability in how long individuals remain in each of these stages and some stay in some of these stages quite a while.  Depending upon how long the stage of anger remains, there will certainly be conservative backlash, and then the latter stages’ prevalence will dictate how much bowing down occurs to what liberals think they deserve in return for the retaining of the presidency.

This week we have seen several stories of employers immediately laying off employees after the election and the stock market certainly has nose-dived as well.  Elections have consequences for sure.  Many feel that they are being forced to work hard to pay for those who choose to not do so and know how to bilk the government for what they need.  What is happening is terrible for our country and is exactly what happens in any socialistic country when people begin losing their incentives for hard work.  It will be hard to stop this trend from continuing given the current administration’s ideals of take from those who can and do, to give to those who could and won’t.  There is a certain level of acceptance in this approach to dealing with the current dire economic forecast and not just anger here.  Many employers held out hoping that policies would change and enable them to expand again with some economic certainty, but with those hopes dashed by the gimme crowds, they have adopted a defensive strategy to enable them to ride out what is seen as the coming storms.

A different level of acceptance is seen in those who think all is lost and want to turn conservative truth into half-baked, libservative pie that no one is going to want to eat because it’s just readily apparent that it’s a desperate attempt to masquerade as a partial liberal just long enough to get elected or stay elected.   We have always gotten bad legislation each time conservatives get into power and then decide to put forth liberal ideas because they think it’ll make them popular enough to stay in office.  This bowing down does nothing more than brings contempt and disrespect.  The bad ideas of the liberals are doomed to fail and conservatives don’t need to despair and change, but be patient and the opportunity for making progress again will most certainly present itself with enough time.

This American ship is seen by many as sinking right now and the life boats are being lowered by those who are already jumping ship in mass numbers to protect what they deem is theirs.  For those who don’t have a life boat, many of them are demanding all of the stuff that they can get before the collapse occurs.  Some say that what will be is just meant to be, but I don’t agree.  God’s will is always that He be lifted up and that all people would come to know Him.  God lets us have free will to make good and bad choices while being blessed, or cursed, depending upon those choices made.  This ship doesn’t have to sink, but we must do some better choosing as a nation soon with everyone grabbing a bucket and throwing the water back out of the hull.  From the way it’s looking now, many of those who are doing that are giving up now.  This is not the time for that kind of thought.  This is the time for those who will “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).  This is the time for those who will go forth “as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).  God’s wisdom is there for the asking if we will ask Him, and then act on what He tells us in His Word and through our prayers.


I can remember when I was a boy, my mother would let me, my two brothers, and my friends get on our bicycles and we would ride around the area all day long it seemed.  Having a multi-speed bicycle meant you really had something of which to be proud, but we were glad to get anything because it was all better than walking.  We would ride for miles away from our homes in our little pack.  We never encountered anyone from whom we had to flee, or be afraid of anyone near us.  Across the road and up in the woods, we used our hatchets and cut down small trees and built our own little cabin to camp inside.  We would find four trees arranged as close to a square as possible and then nail our trees up the side to make the walls.  The roof and door took the most time to build.  All of this was done on someone else’s land who never cared nor worried that a lawyer would ever be a problem from someone getting upset.  There was trust and faith in others that was present because we hadn’t had it dashed to pieces yet.


I feel really sorry for those children who grow up today never having a chance to exist in an innocent time.  I think that those days are presently diminishing.  Parents of today can hardly afford to let their guard down for a moment because of fear of who lurks around the corner.  Children are now kept close at hand at all times.  The children are now told of all this possible evil that might befall them and are left with anxiety in its place.


In days past, that are not too long ago, I can remember when the local daily newspaper would come in the afternoon and the 6 p.m. evening news for thirty minutes would suffice for us to know what was happening.  During the days in which we are living now, that is increasingly less local, one news article after another tells us repetitively, like a machine gun in rapid fire, of what is happening around us all of the time.  Instead of us knowing what we need to function in our immediate surroundings, we are flooded with information that we have to sift through and decide whether it impacts us or not, and then decide how we are going to respond.  How we respond to this barrage of information overload is crucial to our health, physically and spiritually, and to our community, to our nation, and to our world.  We all do influence each other more than we think we do.  We must willfully limit what we put into our minds and choose to focus on what is good.  I have found that many who are suffering from anxiety have a habit that they might not recognize of critically focusing on what is wrong and negative; to counter this, one should choose to retrain the mind into a different habit by making oneself find two positives for every negative allowed into the mind.


Instead of seeing only ruin coming upon our nation and evil flourishing around us, letting anxiety become a greater problem and having innocence replaced with fear, we also have to remember whose children we are and He has not forgotten, nor is He asleep, nor does He have His attention turned to other matters.  Those who serve the one, true God, will never be disappointed in the end, nor do we have to be overcome in the present.  We can rejoice and be glad now because of the hope that we have ahead of us during trying times.  We can know that God will protect us as we seek to accomplish His will for our lives.  If we truly have the faith to know these things, we will be able to fly as the eagle because God will give us the strength to soar above it all and be more than conquerors for Him.