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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Wild Virginia

As I write this, every branch of the pine tree outside our apartment shimmies, rests, then dances again. The long grass trembles, cluttered with leaves and small branches, while small birds hop along the wind, hungry and tired after the departure of Hurricane Irene. The sky has finally shifted from a stormy gray white to a brilliant blue. Though we were fortunate to be 100 miles inland, this storm pounded us just four days after the 5.8 quake that rattled our state and half the East Coast.

I’m beginning to understand why it took three tries to found a lasting colony here. In A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, Thomas Harriot sang the praises of the fertile land where the Roanoke Colony was attempted, but there’s no erasing the challenges of this beautiful, demanding environment. With modern NASA technology and internet communication, news about the earthquake, its epicenter and its strength were available within two minutes. Warnings of the hurricane started nearly a week in advance and preparedness undoubtedly saved lives. How could a few hundred colonists ill prepared for even daily life survive any disasters four hundred years ago?

We know it was a struggle — our history books and movies tell the tales of starvation and war. The Jamestown Rediscovery Archeological Project studies at the original fort and continues to learn about how the settlers lived, persevered and eventually prospered.

I’m quite glad they did. Where else would I meet a camel cricket and a stinkfinger in the same month that an earthquake and a hurricane struck?

 

 

Yes, I know…

…I’ve been missing in action here on the blog, partly due to other writing projects and partly just from adjusting to my new life here in Virginia. I love it here, but would like to suggest ‘Wild Virginia’ as state motto. There’ve been camel crickets, stinkfingers and thunderstorms to deal with even before the earthquake and hurricane season started. Not to mention the birds and squirrels that feast on the lawn outside my apartment – today I had a cardinal visit!

There’s a backlog of ideas and drafts to be posted, so stay tuned.

Alzheimer’s Disease is No Dance in the Park

Times and treatments have changed greatly since my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease twenty years ago. It’s inspiring to know that early diagnosis gives people much more opportunity to decide how to deal with the consequences of this devastating disease, and that many choose to keep living life to its fullest.

Today I came across two stories that illustrate the power of that choice. Both Pat Summitt and Glen Campbell have provided our country with inspiration and leadership in the very different venues of women’s college basketball and popular music. Both have made strategic decisions about how to keep doing the work they love. In Summitt’s case, that will mean relying more on the coaching staff she’s developed over the past twenty years. Campbell plans to keep performing to support his new album. His wife explicitly told People that they were sharing the news about his diagnosis so that fans would be understanding if he flubs a lyric.

Families of Alzheimer’s patients have much more support and care options today, and it helps to have a roadmap about what to do once a diagnosis is obtained. Yet these tools only go so far when loved ones face the emotional reality that Alzheimer’s meansĀ  saying goodbye twice and still being forgotten. A person with Alzheimer’s may look like themselves, but their behavior often changes drastically over time, their memories regress, and their sense of reality changes. They start looking for people who have been dead a long time and thinking that they are living in a different decade. For my family, this was the first farewell, the realization that Grandma was no longer aware of us as her children and grandchildren.We had funny moments with her too, and there can be a sweetness in being around someone who is reliving their childhood. She remained charming and conversational, if confused, for quite some time before her dementia and frustration level escalated. Then she needed full time professional care and we were fortunate to find a nursing home with a new wing built especially for patients like her. The second farewell was when she died and we actually buried her. Of course we were relieved that her suffering was over but there was also great sadness about all the years the disease stole her from us.

There are drugs that delay the onset of symptoms, improvements in palliative care and better caregiver support networks now but one fact remains the same:

There is no cure
for Alzheimer’s disease.

Consider joining a Walk to End Alzheimer’s in your area to change that and support families coping with this disease. Let’s make Alzheimer’s a forgotten condition of the past.

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