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alzHACKer’s disease:  Helpful hacks for improving your communication efforts

Written for WTAD White Pages 4-7-17

Bobbe White

                                                                                                                                                                You’ll eventually know someone with Alzheimer’s disease (A.D.).  Percentages are expected to increase exponentially.  Watching Dad succumb has been educational, at best. At worst, “It aint’ purty.” A day doesn’t pass, when someone doesn’t mention their family is dealing with A.D. Check out these hacks for improving communication.

A dopt a smile before entering their room. (Fake or real, they won’t care.)

L et them lead the conversation, even if it’s nonsensical. If Dad mumbles, I either answer randomly or agree with him. Nobody insists it must make sense.

Z ip your mouth when you get the urge to argue. It’s not worth it. Nobody wins.

H ave your phone handy. Show photos. Play music. It possesses power for persons with various dementias. Select hits from their 18-25 adult years. Observe their reaction. Some music sparks happy memories, some triggers sad ones. Note bobbing head and tapping feet. With Dad, it’s not a tremor. It’s his mojo!

E ngage in conversation around someone with A.D. Even the sound of your voice can be soothing.

I nvest in a baby doll.  Watch someone with A.D. cradle, rock and love it. It’s soothing. I believe there’s an innate sense to feel needed. Even better, bring a real baby or puppy!

M ake eye contact. (Not with the puppy…the person!)

E ncourage staff to share funny situations you may have missed. “Laughter is like a dry diaper. It doesn’t take care of the problem, but it makes it bearable for a while.” Michael Pritchard.

R esolve to sloooooooow your pace. Especially if feeding them! They can’t go from 0 to 110 anymore.

S o, they don’t know you. It stinks. It’s the disease. Dad thinks I’m a waitress. He calls me, “Babe.” (He knows me!) Then I realize he calls everybody, “Babe”. (Sigh…)

It’s Almost Time: Teams for Tots

 

wtad.com/white pages/3.30.17/Bobbe White

soccer

Ahhhhh, spring and summer sports. To a child, it’s like Christmas. Hear them singing?

“T-balls roasting in the summer sun…”

“Deck the pool with lots of chlorine, fa-la-la-la-la…”

“Hark the herald grass and sand traps!”

“Tennis balls are coming to town!”

What an exciting time! There are uniforms to buy, schedules and transportation to coordinate, and some weeks, it’s your turn to take treats. YAY.  If you’ve not participated at some level, pull over next to a baseball field or park and watch newbies in any sport. It’s cheap entertainment. 

Here’s what you may witness:

T-Ball: It’s been too long, but I think everybody gets “at bats”. A game ends after a set time. They may not keep score, which is just peachy for peewees. 

Softball: A softball Olympian now coaches her son’s baseball team. Are her expectations unrealistic? Nope! She understands seven-year-olds want to dogpile at third base, or in the outfield. She smiled when a batter got a hit, then ran to third base, instead of first. When asked, he answered, “Well, nobody was on third and somebody told me it’s closer than running to first anyway.” Logical.

Tennis:  I taught tennis for the City of Winter Park, FL. It lasted a month. Seemed like a year. The upside: chasing a million stray balls was slimming. The downside: fifteen (seemed like fifty) children returning balls at my head was risky business.  

Golf: For years, Dad helped junior golfers. Irv loved Tuesday mornings. He had the patience of a saint and encouraged every effort. He understood sand traps fascinated little kids and that you ALWAYS stand back when the clubs are swinging. Remember, they just MIGHT hit a ball and flip it back over their heads or ricochet off an old oak tree. Dad wanted kids to love golf, like he did. Parents were appreciative. (Because Dad got them off the hook, maybe?)

Soccer: One dad-coach, had a half-time pep talk. Hot and tired kids sprawled on parents’ laps. “Team, we’ve got one goal and one goal only for the second half. Our goal is to have at least ONE players on the field by the end of the game!” Lofty goal. Our daughter was only in it for the end-of-season pizza party. Whatever.

Swimming:   Swim class/team resembles a gaggle of guppies. They’re in perpetual motion, resembling Minions in their goggles. Within fifteen minutes, everyone is shivering. And it’s 97 degrees that day. Little bodies are so darn slippery, they slither from your grasp and scramble up the ladder. That’s because they have to go to the bathroom. Again. It’s all that water. Unlike the above sports, however, at least they finish cleaner than they started.

If you have coached in the past, thank you. If you get asked, say, “Yes.” It’s a season, for heaven’s sake, not a ten-year contract. Batter up! 

Baseball_High_Five.jpg

The Newlywed Game – 40 years later

Written for WTAD.COM/WHITE PAGES

3/09/17

Bobbe White

Forty years ago today, on March 9, 1977, Jeff showed up at my Florida apartment in the middle of the night, with a Buick Skylark full of his stuff. And a ring. I was finishing an internship in Winter Park, FL. I figured if went far enough away from ISU, (Illinois State) my supervisor wasn’t likely to pop in on me for a surprise observation. I was correct.  Dr. Meyer never popped in on me, but I never expected Jeff to pick up his life in Quincy and PoP the question at 2:00a.m. We returned to Quincy and a smattering of family and friends, for a living room ceremony March 26, 1977 (yes, three weeks later); then high-tailed it back to Florida for our obligations.

We had a great run those first couple of years. We moved about every six to eight months, by design. When else can you live in multiple cities and move everything you own in two cars?

Along the way, an extra passenger hopped into my car, uninvited. The passenger would hang out in the back seat some of the journey. Sometimes it even in the trunk, and we didn’t know it was there. About 6-8 years later, my extra passenger hopped into the front seat and sometimes, insisted on driving. The extra passenger -or baggage- however you care to look at it, was depression and anxiety. There. I’ve said it. It’s very scary to admit. But it’s very burdensome to not admit. Do you know why? Those of us who have suffered are deathly afraid of the STIGMA. Especially in a small community, where everybody knows your name. Especially somebody like me: high school cheerleader, long-term career gal, the motivational humorist speaker and author, on my own time (a/k/a known as a laughter therapist). Who’d have thunk it?

We’re happy to announce that I’ve been a recovering train wreck since about 2000. If you do the math, our married and family life was burdened by my affliction, or illness, or whatever you want to call it, for years.  To celebrate our anniversary, we will exchange the Hallmark cards and I’ll unwrap a crown of rubies, diamonds and sapphires, no doubt. We’ll take a week-end trip at some point. But, here’s our REAL gift to each other: we’re collaborating on a book about my depression and how it affects the spouse and the house. If you, too, suffer, it’s not just you who suffers. We think we hide it pretty well. Right. It takes a village to move a family through this muckety-muck. Thankfully, with a lot of help, we’re on the other side: still married, still learning about how it’s even possible and with terrific kids, who, thank God, I didn’t damage as much as I’d feared. Our message to those who may read our book someday is a simple one.

There is hope.  There is help. We’re proof.  bw