Out of the Woods

Our new puppy, Max, was a bundle of joy. For the first day.

Then he stopped eating. Languid and lifeless, he lay on his dog bed. A visit to the vet confirmed our fear: the little guy had parvo.

The parvovirus, for which his vaccination was questionable, attacks a puppy’s immune system; those under ten weeks have little chance of pulling through. Our vet was optimistic. She’d seen far worse, and felt he had a good chance.

Still, for four days he wouldn’t eat, subsisting only on a daily IV of fluids. I resigned myself to his imminent death, making his life as comfortable as possible.

Some days it feels like everyone around me is dying. Our beloved golden retriever. A long-time friend with ALS. My mother.

Miraculously, Max rebounded. And now, he’s unstoppable.

If only Alzheimer’s were that easy.

 

 

Powerless

Half of Maine has been without power for three days now. The outage may last for a week.

My parents, long divorced, both live alone in Maine. And I’m 3,000 miles away.

Should I worry?

Both have backup generators, essential in a state with October snowstorms and powerlines as ancient as Thomas Edison. Dad’s power was restored yesterday. But phonelines and electricity are still down at mom’s and I can’t reach her.

Do I worry?

Of course. After my most recent caregiving tour of duty, it took three weeks to let go of the gnawing guilt over leaving. This week, worry returned in three minutes, even after learning that mom’s okay and our respite caregiver — also largely incommunicado — is with her.

The first step in recovery is admitting powerlessness. Since my own recovery twenty years ago, I’ve found this extends beyond alcohol to people, places and things, a fact I often forget. This jolt from the Universe is the ultimate ironic reminder.

 

Slow & Steady

What you say and how you say it is critical in reducing anxiety in a person with dementia:

1. Ask one simple question at a time. Complex choices may overload the person’s decision-making ability.

2. Ask them to do one task at a time. They may not be able to remember several tasks or be unable to make sense of your message. Most things we ask a person to do— get ready for bed, put on a coat to go to the store—involve several tasks. The person with dementia may not be able to sort out these tasks. Break down each project into individual steps and ask them to do one step at a time.

3. Speak slowly, and wait for the person to respond. Their response may be much slower than what seems normal to us. Breathe. Wait.