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Don’t experience the situation alone

In the past two weeks, four caretakers of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s have been in our office asking for help.

They came distraught, thinking they had nowhere to go with their pain, feeling alone with their situation, and looking for any kind of assistance. I know also they felt a sense of betrayal, as I do now writing this, because what occurs in lives of caretakers of people with Alzheimer’s is unspeakable.

My mother earned her master’s degree in business education back in the day when most women didn’t even go to college. She was a classically-trained singer who filled my days with music, taught me that I can do anything and to never leave the house without wearing clean underwear and lipstick. She held my hand through heartbreak, joy and my own motherhood.

For the last six years of her life, her decline with Alzheimer’s was profound. The worst included talking to people who were long since dead, loss of speech and the ability to process vision, hiding things then forgetting she hid them, loss of both short and long term memory, not recognizing immediate family, fecal smearing, falling asleep at odd times, refusal to eat, random anger, bizarre accusations, hallucinations and prolonged episodes of anger.

My father was heroic. He kept her on a schedule, did all of the domestic chores, took her to infinite doctors’ appointments, accompanied her to the beauty shop, walked with her at the rec center and indulged her. His own health was diminished from his Herculean effort.

At my Fourth of July party in 2006, I was feeding my mother cake and ice cream, when she indicated she wanted to do it herself. She accidentally dumped her plate down her shirt. I cleaned up the mess, dressed her in one of my shirts, sat down beside her and held her hand. She was sobbing, and attempting to tell me, with what little ability she had left to speak, that she wanted to die.

There is no glory in this disease, no getting better, no hope. There is only the honor of standing by someone you love, no matter what.

In the end, even this is no consolation. No consolation in enforcing a “Do Not Resuscitate” order that ensured her immediate death while she lay whimpering in a semi-conscious state. No consolation when she slipped into a coma surrounded by family, flowers and handmade quilts while Christmas music played in the background. No consolation when she died.

Whatever fresh hell this disease brings, please don’t compound it by experiencing it alone.

Although our local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is in Durango, Elaine Stumpo, executive director, travels here the last Wednesday of every month at 1 p.m. for our Alzheimer’s Support Group. She is quick to return phone calls and to provide every material we request, as well as refer us and others for appropriate help. She recommends the book, “The 36 Hour Day,” by Nancy L. Mac, M.A. and Peter V. Rabins M.D., M.PH. We have copies in our library. The Alzheimer’s Association also has a 24-hour hotline, which I have used, that is invaluable. The number is (800) 272-3900. You can also call The Silver Foxes Den, Jodi or Musetta at 264-2167.

Fox tales

The Senior Center knows its college basketball. Next year, during the NCAA playoffs, call us if you need help figuring out your brackets. We rule.

Connie Giffin made the news and is on YouTube. Check out her monolithic homes.

Thank you

Thank you, Cecilia Hopper, for your Easter baskets.

Thank you to our regular Canasta players. You know what you did and we really appreciate your care and compassion.

Thank you, Lake McCullogh, for teaching the windowsill kitchen herb class. We loved it. I am still singing to our seeds daily.

Fox Trot Challenge

The Fox Trot Challenge is a 10-week walking program measured by a pedometer (pedometers measure how many steps are taken in a period of time), provided at no cost by AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). The Silver Foxes Den is hosting this program for anyone age 55 and over. Call me, Jodi, at 264-2167 to enroll or to ask questions.

Our kickoff is Wednesday, April 21, for everyone who has enrolled. We will have tables in the community center gym from 9 to 11 a.m. that include pedometer training, forms, “Create the Good Community Walking Program Information,” Blood Pressure Check, and Nutrition Counseling. This entire program is free of charge, complete with cool T-shirts, and it will be fun.

Senior Free Day

The Springs Resort and Spa is graciously hosting a “Senior Appreciation Day.” It is a free day of soaking in their hot springs on Thursday, April 22. Anyone who is age 55 and over can soak for free by just showing their ASI membership card or driver’s license.

Craft and jewelry sale

On Saturday, June 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., we are having a craft and jewelry sale in our dining room. Booths will be $25. Now is the time to make things and look through your current jewelry that you don’t need. We will also be selling refreshments, including cinnamon rolls. Yummmm. Interested? Space is limited; please sign up early. Call me, 264-2167.

Midnight Masquerade

Archuleta Seniors, Inc. will host its annual Senior Prom on April 25, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Pagosa Springs High School in the commons area. The high school prom happens the night before, and the school is leaving the decorations. The theme is “Midnight Masquerade.” For $5 for ASI members and $8 for non-members, each person receives a corsage or boutonniere, hors d’oeurves catered by Christine’s Cuisine and one free prom photo. John Graves will be providing the music, and rumor has it there will be pre-prom dance lessons here at the Silver Foxes Den. Tickets will be sold at the ASI membership desk located within the dining room at the Silver Foxes Den on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Services

Are you homebound or know someone who is? Let the Silver Foxes Den help you with your meals. We have expanded our service to the more rurally-isolated areas of the county and would like to help you help yourself.

These meals are the same meals prepared in our kitchen by the same cooks who prepare those scrumptious senior center meals. Our hot meal home-delivery program remains available to those closer to town four days per week, with frozen meals on Thursdays. Meals are available to people age 60-plus for a suggested donation of $3 per meal. Give me or Musetta a call at 264-2167 for further information.

Weekly activities

Friday, April 16 — Geezers 9a.m.; Stitchin’ in the Kitchen 10 a.m.; Tai Chi 11a.m.; Gym Walk 12:30 p.m. 1:15 ASI board meeting.

Monday, April 19 — Gym Walk 12:30 p.m.; Canasta 1 p.m.

Tuesday, April 20 — Gym Walk 12:30 p.m.; Meditation for Healing 1 p.m.; Healthy Living Class 1 p.m.

Wednesday, April 21 — Fox Trot Challenge Kickoff 9 –11 a.m.; Dance for Health 10 a.m.; poker 1 p.m.

Thursday, April 22 — No lunch, administrative day.

Friday, April 23 — Geezers 9 a.m.; Stitchin’ in the Kitchen 10 a.m.; Tai Chi 11 a.m.; Gym Walk 12:30 p.m.

This week’s menu

Suggested donation for older adults age 60-plus is $3, kids 12 and under and guests $6. Our meal program is partially funded through the Older Americans Act, United Way, and Archuleta County, Town of Pagosa Springs and other contributions and grants. These funds help support the cost of the meal which is approximately $9.75. Please note our menu is subject to change. The salad bar opens at 11:30 a.m. with lunch served from noon to 12:30 p.m.

Friday, April 16 — Meatloaf, brown gravy, cheesy potatoes, seasoned green beans, pineapple, roll.

Monday, April 19 — Cheeseburger, creamy potato salad, relish tray, lettuce, tomato and onion, strawberries and bananas.

Tuesday, April 20 — Ham and beans, broccoli, parslied carrots, cornbread.

Wednesday, April 21 — Smothered chicken, cornbread stuffing, seasoned, cauliflower and broccoli, applesauce, waldorf salad, bread.

Thursday, April 22 — No lunch, administrative day.

Friday, April 23 — Dijon chicken, cheesy pea salad, orange, julienne beets, whole wheat bread, fruit medley.