By Rick Phelps
Every day can be an inspiration. Will there be hard times? Of course. Will there be days and hours when you think you simply cannot continue? Yes.
Many times with this disease we focus on things that we simply cannot change. Things we cannot fix.
They took a bridge out close to us, about fifteen years ago. I, along with others, was so concerned that by removing this bridge many people would die because of added response time to EMS or Law Enforcement. To this day, not one person has been put in harm's way because of the closing of that bridge. But I remember as if it was yesterday, we were certain people would die. We were focused on and worried about something that may not happen, and never did.
You have to deal in the right now. Today. This morning. Worrying about what will happen next year, or when the patient goes from one stage to another is just a waste of time.
In reality, I don't know how today will go, let alone next week, next month, or next year.
You cannot fix anything. You can adjust to things. You can eliminate things that will surely cause something bad to happen. Just the simple act of removing all throw rugs from your home can lessen the chance of a fall. If you think things are bad now, take what you're going through and add a broken hip into the mix. Then you have real problems.
A broken hip is indeed a medical emergency. And just getting through the initial part is stressful. Calling the squad, keeping the patient still on the floor. Trying to explain what is going on, what is going to happen. And then dealing with emergency personnel when they arrive.
You will hear that all EMS and public safety workers are trained in dealing with dementia. All this is, is a false sense of security. I did both EMS and Law Enforcement for over 24 years, and I can tell you that they are not trained "properly" to deal with a dementia patient.
If you are ever in a situation where you need to call 911 for medical assistance, treat the first responders as if they know nothing about dementia. Chances are they don't.
So, do what you can today. Right now. Try to make things safer in your home. This isn't rocket science. Worrying about what is coming—instead of what is already here—is a mistake. A mistake you will likely pay for over and over again.
If dealing with dementia was easy for the patient or the caregiver, none of us would be here. If dementia was temporary, we would not be here. If we could "fix" anything or any part of this disease, we would not be here. But we can't.
And that indeed is why we are here. And will be until the very day dementia itself is a memory...
Editor's note: Rick's journey with Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease was chronicled in "Fade to Blank: Life Inside Alzheimer's," an in-depth look at the real lives of families impacted by the Alzheimer's epidemic. His story continues on his personal blog on AgingCare.com.