LivingWithAlzheimers

Editor’s note: This is the second of a monthly series of articles that will be written by Methow Valley resident Don Reddington, which will explore the issues of living with Alzheimer’s Disease. The articles will be written in collaboration with Raleigh Bowden, M.D., Katie Bristol and Methow Valley News reporter Laurelle Walsh.

Lifestyle choices related to diet, vitamin supplements and exercise have reduced the risk of many diseases. Could they also slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease? Research studies to identify factors that affect the risk of AD are being developed. What can be done today?

In our lifetimes, Jerry Bristol and I have always gotten a lot of satisfaction and happiness from helping others. We will continue this year to help others with AD by writing about the disease from our perspectives.

We know there are no medically proven ways to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s, but we believe that lifestyle and home remedies have affected our AD by slowing down the process. We also believe that they help us have a positive outlook for our remaining life.

Lifestyle and home remedies that we have tried include the following:

Positive attitude

When Jerry and I found out that we have AD, we experienced a whole change of life! Jerry and I are going to go from being an adult to living like a child. We don’t think about this or other bad things. Jerry and I just want to get on with our lives and have a positive outlook. Both of us are grateful for the life that we had and for the life that we have lived so far. Jerry and I accept that we have a disease that there is no cure for. However, hopefully we can slow it down!

A sense of humor

Jerry and I feel that it is better to enjoy life rather than be mad about our illness and changes in lifestyle. Even though getting the disease is unfair, we try to ignore the negative things people say about it. Our advice is not to argue with people as it is too stressful. Reducing stress, simplifying life, and trying not to overextend on commitments all help us stay positive. Jerry and I will maintain our sense of humor and activities so we will enjoy our remaining life on earth!

Exercising

Jerry and I have always been physically active and we really believe that this makes a big difference in our lives. Some data supports that exercise may be the one thing that can really slow AD down. Jerry gets his exercise from hiking in low country, snowshoeing, yoga, and exercise classes twice a week at the Grange (thanks, SAIL — Stay Active and Independent for Life). I do floor exercises four to five times a week (thanks, Pete Dickinson); cross country skiing three to four times a week (thanks, Don Portman); downhill skiing at Loup Loup Ski Bowl when possible with my “adopted dad” (thanks, Bob Ulrich); mountain biking four to five times a week (thanks, Joe and Julie); grouse and chukar hunting with my hunting dogs; and riding my horse up the high trails and backcountry (thanks, Ginger).

Staying active

Jerry and I both spend a lot of time gardening. Gardening gives us work to do that helps keep our brains functioning. Jerry and I both volunteered to help at the recycle center until it was no longer possible. I take doing the dishes seriously (thanks, Ginger)! I find for myself that I have to think ahead about what I am going to do next or I do the wrong things. In the beginning of AD, I got to laying something down, and then I would not remember where it was. My new strategy is to try put things away right away. It has helped greatly!

Diet and drugs

Jerry and I eat very few fatty foods but enjoy eating lots of fruits and vegetables. We also take omega-3 fish oil and a variety of supplements each day. Jerry also takes coconut oil. We watch our diets and try to avoid sugar. However, Jerry and I have a cookie desire! One cookie a day (thanks, Josephine) is just what Jerry and I need! Jerry and I both tried a variety of AD medications suggested by our doctors, but we stopped taking these medications due to adverse side effects. However, I still take one medication, an antidepressant, so that I have a happy day. Jerry and I would prefer quality of life! As Jerry once said: “I would prefer to remain true to myself as opposed to taking a medication that altered the true me.” Like Jerry, I want to enjoy my remaining life!

Intellectual stimulation

Jerry and I like to read but it has become difficult for both of us. Loss of memory is taking it away.

We both started seeing speech therapists. We both got activities and written exercises to work on. Jerry did puzzles and played games, as well as reading. He can no longer do any of these, but it hasn’t stopped him. Jerry still participates in a book club.

Although speaking is difficult for Jerry, we have discovered that we can talk together. What is great is that I get responses from Jerry to our discussions. And when I get home to write these chapters on the computer, I have noticed that it really helps me with my memory loss. Missing words come back! According to Dr. Raleigh, it helps preserve cognitive function and prevents cognitive decline.

Music

Jerry and I both love music. Jerry will sit down and listen to it. He also enjoys musical shows, movies, and live musical theater. He is able to comprehend the emotion of music better than he can comprehend the content of a verbal exchange or dialogue. I love music from the 1950s and ’60s! My new iPod and headphones (thanks, Donni and Rick) have changed my world. Music helps me so much to put negative thoughts aside. When I go out and work on my tractor or around the farm, listening to ’50s and ’60s hits is something that has helped me focus on the positive things.

Social engagement

For Jerry and me it can be hard to answer questions when someone asks. We are blessed that our wives will help interface conversations with other people. We don’t want Alzheimer’s to be the only topic, however. We have other important things going on in our lives!

We will talk to people who make eye contact and take time to talk to us; otherwise, it is a waste of time for both parties. Jerry and I enjoy talking to people one on one; for us, smaller social gatherings and groups are easier. It is helpful to get introductions from known friends and acquaintances to assist with names and context. It might be awkward initially, but we live in the small community of the Methow Valley where the majority of people are kind, understanding, and compassionate.

Living with AD is not easy! Our thoughts are with you.

— Don Reddington and Jerry Bristol, AD League