Editor’s note: This is the fourth 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.
In Chapter 2, “Possible preventative strategies,” Jerry Bristol and I indicated the importance of physical and social activities. With the help of Dr. Raleigh Bowden, we learned about putting together activities that we hope will help slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Activities help maintain general well being at the early stages of Alzheimer’s. They also prevent boredom and agitation in people with AD.
One of the best activities for me has been the opportunity to work with Dr. Raleigh at the Lookout Coalition and Laurelle Walsh at the Methow Valley News on the creation of this series of articles, “Living with Alzheimer’s.” Our primary goal of the writings was to help people in the Methow Valley learn about the effects of Alzheimer’s disease on the patient and the family. From the responses we have received, we are going in the right direction.
Jerry and I feel that we are providing meaningful awareness to the Methow Valley community and beyond. For me, I have received a great deal of satisfaction knowing that we are helping communities, patients and their families. Helping others has always been an important part of my life. I didn’t want AD to stop that part of my life!
Jerry and I have learned that we are able to perform a variety of activities that help us to be active. For example, we exercise and keep busy in other ways such as socializing, helping in the kitchen, working in and around the house, gardening, yoga, and attending special events. The main goal is to fulfill the need to be active!
One advantage of exercise is to avoid restlessness and agitation, which are both symptoms of AD. Walking or hiking in a safe area helps with sleep at night. Jerry enjoys dancing and finds a lot of fun in this activity.
If asked, Jerry and I can help with household tasks that are appropriate. We may not qualify for cooking, as pointed out by my wife, Ginger, but we can peel certain vegetables and set the table. Jerry and I love working in the garden. We are not too involved with arts and crafts but other persons with AD may enjoy them. I love animals! Ginger and I have five dogs, four cats, two horses, two mules, one rabbit and lots of chickens. I enjoy spending time with them. Animals are sources of social activity and friendship— recommended therapies for people with Alzheimer’s.
Our expectancy is that all activities should be careful and comfortable to the personality of the person. A shy person should not be required to participate in any group activities. However, an outgoing person may be happy with a group. Jerry and I enjoy music but what we listen to is different. I enjoy listening to music from the ’50s and ’60s on my iPod. Jerry loves classical music. For both of us, it brings back memories of the past and gives us happiness in the present.
For those who like to read, they may be able to continue browsing though magazines and books. Thanks to the help of Chris Holm, I was able to improve my reading, but it is difficult to remember the contents. Jerry is not able to read at this stage of the disease. However, both of us are still able to enjoy the entertainment of television. For others with AD, reading can be frustrating because they no longer are able to understand the contents of the story.
Finally, Jerry and I enjoy some simple games but a person with advanced AD will not even know the games. However, they should not be treated as a child. As indicated by Dr. Raleigh, it is important to keep mental level in mind when planning recreational activities.
Having chores and responsibilities each day in our familiar environment is essential to our well being and self worth. Being out of doors, working or enjoying sport activities make us feel better. At the end of the day, we sleep so good at night.
As the expression goes, “Life is good” — if you go in a positive direction!
Our thoughts are with you.
Don Reddington and Jerry Bristol — AD League