Amazing Grace: Finding Hope in Coping with Dementia

By: Lisa Weatherford

Wedding Dad

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about my family’s life and the impact of dementia. My Mom, Louise, passed away ten months after getting her diagnosis.  My dad, George, got his diagnosis very shortly after mom. From the very start of this roller coaster ride of dementia nothing went smoothly.  It seemed at every turn there was something else to deal with.

Between hospital stays and facilities, we moved Mom ten times at the very least. Mom’s health status was constantly changing.  She went from a nursing home on hospice, to a hospice house, to not needing hospice at all.  We then tried letting her live in the same facility with Dad, but ultimately had to move her to another assisted living community. Then it was back to the hospital, rehabilitation, and yet another facility on hospice.  She wasn’t in the new facility more than three weeks when she passed away.

 

With Dad we some of the same issues.  He moved a little less; however, he had more than one long stay in the hospital due to behavioral issues. Fortunately, we found a facility that was perfect for him.  Even then, he gave the staff a run for their money.  He was out the door every chance he got. The facility put alarms on all the doors, so he never made it more than one step out the door.  For our family, this was comforting. We knew the staff at his facility was extremely well trained and very caring.

DadFlowers

With all that said, Dad steadily went downhill.  He was on hospice for several months.  He lost so much weight because his brain no longer told him he needs to eat.  He also could not remember what eating utensils were or how to use them.  Here again, the staff helped to encourage him to eat as much as possible.

But dementia always wins.

I wrote a long time ago that dementia never gets better or goes away.  The only guarantee is it will get worse and your loved one will die. Sadly, Dad passed away on January 24, 2020, exactly ten months to the day after Mom.  We miss them both so very much, but we also miss the way they were before dementia.

MomAndDad2 MomAndDad

Dementia is a hard disease. I think mostly because it feels like you lose your loved one twice. The first time is when they no longer remember who you are.  Then, as painful as that is, you lose them physically in the end. Both ways are equally as painful.

Amazing Grace

We take comfort in knowing that Louise and George – our beloved parents – are back together again and free of dementia.  We believe that by God’s amazing grace they are having quite the reunion.

For more information on care for a loved one diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, please visit https://www.carrollcampbellplace.com/.

Those Wintertime Blues

By: Marianna Boyce

Have you checked in on your friends and family lately?  It’s important to ask those close to us how they’re doing periodically, especially after the holidays.  We never know what someone is going through.  They may seem fine on the outside but could be experiencing sadness and chaos on the inside.

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Speaking of sadness, have you ever heard about symptoms of seasonal affective disorder or SAD?  Our shortened winter days make for very long nights.  You are most likely affected if you start to feel sad or depressed in late fall carrying through the winter.  We crave more daylight hours and can hardly wait until Daylight Savings Time begins.  This year, the day for those wintertime blues to magically disappear is March 10, 2019.

According to mayoclinic.org, symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are as follows:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day✅
  • Losing interest in activities once enjoyed✅
  • Having problems sleeping✅
  • Changes in appetite and weight✅
  • Having very low energy✅
  • Easily agitated✅
  • Difficulty concentrating✅
  • Feeling of hopelessness or unworthiness✅

I immediately recognized all these symptoms, but not for seasonal affective disorder.  Instead, I recognized them in relation to rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  Add daily chronic intense joint pain to this list and VOILA!  That was me in 2016!  Who knew?  Not me!  I was totally blindsided and clueless.  It took about a year and a half but with the help of a great rheumatologist here at LMC, I am feeling somewhat better.

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Words cannot describe the difficulty one deals with when something so mentally and physically draining leaves such a lingering adverse effect.  Whether it was SAD or solely RA, these symptoms changed my psyche to the core.  I had to delve deep to bring about self-help and healing to my body, soul, and mind.

If you need only a long sunshiny perfect spring day to uplift your spirit, you have a little longer to wait.  In the meantime, try these simple home remedies to help in your quest for a quick pick me up.

  • Open all your blinds during the day. Make your environment brighter and “sun shinier.”
  • Exercise regularly, even if it’s only 10-15 minutes. A mid morning walk would be perfect!  Outdoor light is beneficial, even on a cloudy day.
  • Consider eating your lunch outside on milder days. Living in South Carolina, chances are, that could be often!
  • Make minor changes in your routine. This may be enough to carry you through those wintertime blues.

For me, I chose my reliance and personal relationship with God to guide me through my img_0755 (1)horrible experience with RA.  It was never easy, especially when I felt like God was so far away.  It turns out, He was there the entire time.  Looking back, He was blatantly obvious.

You may choose to seek help with your general or mental health doctor;  this is also a great idea.  My point being, do whatever is necessary in order to just get help, especially if you are depressed and have the last symptom listed for SAD:

  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

I can honestly say I have never experienced this thought, but if you do, you need the most urgent attention!  Awareness is key.  If you or a loved one are having thoughts of suicide, please seek help immediately!  “It’s okay to not be okay.”

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

suicidepreventionlifeline.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strengthening Saturday: A New Addition to My Toolbox

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

“It was great! No cleaning, no responsibilities and no guilt. Just rest and relaxation.” That’s how I described a recent overnight stay at a health facility following a vocal cord procedure to my friend/counselor/life coach, Nancy.

Recently, we talked about how I could replicate that without having to go to the hospital. Twenty minutes later, I’d devised “Strengthening Saturday,” one day each month dedicated to rest, renewal, rejuvenation and refreshment. (If only Saturday started with an R!)

Following are the terms of “Strengthening Saturday:”

  • Designate the fourth Saturday of each month as Strengthening Saturday. (That week is usually a busy one for me each month.)
  • Sleep until I wake up; maybe go back to sleep even then.
  • Have no “to do” list for that day; only do the things I want to do including, but not limited to, watching Netflix; creating something; reading; and/or catching up on my writing.  
  • Unless there is something I WANT to do outside of the house and need to be presentable, stay in my PJs or lounging clothes all day.
  • Eat foods that are low-prep and healthy. Unless I want something sinful, which I’ll totally allow during a Strengthening Saturday.
  • No social media allowed. (Lumosity and Words with Friends, yes; Facebook and Twitter, no.)
  • Tell Mom and Sister not to include me in any plans on a Strengthening Saturday.
  • Maximize my senses. Play music I love or listen to a podcast; have some flowers or other beautiful thing in my room; light a candle; take a long hot bubble bath or freshen my bed clothes; eat wonderful food; cuddle with the cats; etc.
  • Will put the guilt of not “being busy” aside, just for one day.

As I continue to grow, build and yes, even still heal a little, I think Strengthening Saturdays will be a game changer. I can’t wait for the first one!

I’ll Take the Magic Pill Please

By: Azure Stilwell

I received an e-mail today asking about the status of my next blog post. I had no idea it was that time of month again. I cannot remember anything right now…

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I do electro-current therapy (ECT) treatments once a week and it is killing my short-term memory. I couldn’t even remember who my dentist was the other day or where our local Publix is. I go to check the mail and there are bills in the mailbox for companies I don’t remember having services with until my husband reminds me. I can’t wait for the treatments to be over. I want to be able to drive again. I want my life back. I want my memories back.

I spend every day wondering what happened to me. When did I stop laughing, smiling, finding joy in life? When did I become so depressed? I want to wake up and not have the first thing I think of be, “Is today going to be a good day?” I stopped going to church. This Easter was the first time I’ve been back to church in months. I’m trying a new church, one that I hope I will be able to get more involved in. I need something to grab onto and feel good about. This seems like a logical answer.

I am still taking my normal medications but I feel like that needs changing, too. In fact, I feel like everything needs changing. My home, my medications, my daily routine. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I want to move back home to Augusta. But when I visit, my problems seem to follow me so I know that isn’t truly the answer that I seek. I just want a magic pill that makes everything go back to the way it was before I got so sad. I hope that my next blog post (if I can remember when that is) will be about something other than mental illness, but this is what I am struggling with today so bear with me.

To Move or Not to Move

By: Azure Stilwell

The last few weeks I have been struggling with my depression. I am still doing the ECT treatments but my energy level has been zapped. Since my oldest left for college I have felt lost here in Columbia. I feel like I want to move back to Augusta. When I lived in Augusta before, I had a great psychologist. My parents also live there so I had family support that I don’t have here in Columbia. The problem is, my husband hasn’t gotten any good job leads and we cannot move without a job in place.

I wonder if my reasons for wanting to move back to Augusta are right for my family. We have a good life here but it just feels incomplete. I am very family oriented and not having anyone here is hard on me. It was easier when my oldest was in high school because we wouldn’t move him away from his friends, but now that he’s gone Columbia feels so lonely. My youngest is still in elementary school so we don’t have the same reasons holding us here that we did with my oldest. I feel like it would be good for all of us to get a new start but I don’t know if that’s selfish thinking. We have a lovely home, my son is in a good school system, and we all have friends here that we would miss. Is it fair to ask them to give these things up so I can be near my parents?

I am not in a good place right now so maybe a move would help me find myself again. Wouldn’t it be better to move and be me again than to stay and be a shell of a person? The struggle is real and I pray every night that God will give us the answer but so far that has not opened a job in Augusta. I just don’t know why I feel so strongly that we are meant to move if we really aren’t? I’m so desperate to feel whole again I would do just about anything at this point if I thought it would help.

A Shocking Experience

By: Azure Stilwell

Sun will come out tomorrow

I have debated with myself about whether or not I should blog about my newest treatment against Bipolar Depression. After much thought I have decided to go ahead and share my experience with ECT, also known as electro-current therapy.

Unlike the treatments given 50 years ago, today’s ECT treatments are quite civilized. I haven’t had to shave my head or scurry into hospital backrooms for my treatments. I walk into outpatient services like anyone else having an outpatient procedure done. I am given an i.v. and then some anesthesia. A box is placed over my head while I am under, and a seizure is caused using electro-current. I have been doing this 3 times a week for the last 3 weeks and though the results have been slow, I have had some improvement. I am feeling less sad with each treatment.

The thing I am struggling with is not being able to drive. My family has had to rely on extended family to help me get to and from my treatments, which has been more difficult since we have no family in the Columbia area. We have had to ask family to come from the coast, Georgia, and Florida. They have all come without hesitation and it has truly been a blessing seeing how much our family cares about us.

My hope is that ECT will help me get back to the person I used to be or at least close to her. Bipolar depression has robbed me of so much of myself. I am tired of feeling sad and tired all the time. I take so much medication with little results that it would be nice to finally find a fix for what ails me. I want my life back and ECT may be the closest chance I have to a cure. Surprisingly, I am not alone in my search because the waiting room is always full with people going through the same or similar ailments as me. We have all decided to try ECT, in spite of its stigma, as a way to get back to ourselves.

Disclaimer: It is essential that you seek professional advice for all issues concerning your physical and mental health. Talk with your doctor before beginning any new health treatments. 

January Blues

By: Azure Stilwell

This month has been difficult for me. I feel bad for feeling bad, but my posts are real so here it goes.

Sun will come out tomorrow

The high of Christmas and having my oldest home from college has passed and everyone has returned to a normal schedule. That is, everyone except me. My normal schedule has become a battle with depression and it is winning this month. Being Bipolar is difficult, especially during the lower times. My medications have been changed so many times I can’t even keep count anymore. I sit at home either giving into or fighting the urge to sleep my day away. I need a purpose, a reason to get up, and right now I just can’t find one, at least not until 3 p.m. – that’s when my youngest gets off the bus.

I have thought about volunteering somewhere but I don’t know where or how to begin to do something like that. I have a hard time with a set schedule. I never know when I will have a Bipolar episode, so having others depend on me causes anxiety within me. It’s really a catch 22. I need to get out to overcome my depression but I am too anxious to commit to any set volunteer time. I need a place that allows me to set my times or has short bursts of time available, say 1-3 hours, so I don’t get overwhelmed.

I have social anxiety which causes me to have a very small circle of people. Since I quit working, that circle in Columbia has gotten even smaller. I also want to feel needed and not just sitting around feeling like I am just there instead of at home.

I need suggestions on how and where to get started volunteering. Any ideas?