Aug 4, 2011

Alzheimer's and BunkHouse Logic

The bottom line is simple. You have to start somewhere. You just have to jump down off your horse and fix that fence.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

From time to time, I'll get an email from someone new to the Alzheimer's Reading Room that reads an article that contains the words Bunkhouse Logic. They ask me to explain Bunkhouse Logic. Here ya go.

I have a place in my mind, I call it the Bunkhouse. Its a little place in my mind where I go to try and figure out what I am going to do in any given situation. I first started doing this on a formalized basis in the late 1980s.

When I go to the Bunkhouse I'm usually looking for a solution to a problem, or a better way to do something.

Subscribe to the Alzheimer's Reading Room

Nowadays when I go into the Bunkhouse, I take my da Vinci pad with me. In the old days, I took a spiral notebook with me. The da Vinci pad is a big notebook with what is called newspaper print. No lines on the paper. Just big pieces of cheap paper.

When I go to the Bunkhouse I make sure I am in a place where I can't be disturbed. In these days, this usually means after midnight so Dotty won't break my trend of thought. I usually sit in the dark, or with some very low light. Normally, I sit in my nice comfortable lazyboy chair with my feet up. However, sometimes I am in a public place and I have to jump into the Bunkhouse while I am making an observation. Usually an observation of a technique I am going to use.

Why Bunkhouse? The way I see it, the cowboys are good at coming up with simple solutions to problems. Its rough out there on the range and they often have to think beyond the obvious to come up with a solution to a problem.

For example, lets say you are out on the north forty and you notice that the barbed wire fence is broken. This can lead to a big problem. The cows can get through the fence and now you have to ride all over the place to round them up. Some of them might get lost. So you have to decide right then, and right there, what to do about it. Ride all the way back to the bunkhouse and gets some tools, or figure out how to fix the fence with whatever is at your disposal at the time.

Now I don't know about you cowboys and cowgirls but I don't want to ride back and forth to the bunkhouse all day long with my butt in a saddle. I have a very tender butt, and I don't want to be walking around for weeks or months with a sore butt. So I am going to figure out how to fix that fence so the cows won't get out and cause an even bigger problem.

Some of my greatest realizations about Alzheimer's caregiving have come to me while using the Bunkhouse of my mind.

For example, one night I go into the bunkhouse because I feel that Dotty and I can no longer live the way we are living.

It seemed to me at the time like we were living in a cave. Our entire day consisted of going to the gym and going to the store. Most days we didn't encounter anyone we knew. The only people we saw were people in the gym, and people in the grocery store. I had given up taking Dotty out to dinner because it just wasn't working. I had not yet figured out the solution to that problem.

So there I was around 1 AM doodling away on my da Vinci pad and out of my mind and out of my hand came these words,

I was startled. It came out, all on its own. I was immediately energized.

At first, I drew about 100 circles around those words on the pad. Over and over, I circled those words. I kept repeating them in my mind. Finally, I went to a new piece of newsprint and wrote these words

We will start living our life the way we always had.

with a single circle around them.

Next I drew two big lines on the paper. This basically created 4 separate quadrants. At that time I decided we would separate the day into four parts. A year or two later I decided to make it 8 parts.

I started to write down all the things I thought we could and should do in a single day if we were going to

start living our life the way we always had

Before long, I had a plan

Now don't be all silly and start thinking, you can't live your life the way you always had bedore a diagnosis of dementia. That is a cop out and a defeatist way of thinking.

Of course you have to make adjustments. Most of these adjustments by the way come in the form of simplification. You just have to make the things you are doing simpler.

You have to think like a cowboy or cowgirl.

Well that revelation pretty much started me on my way. No I didn't have a perfect solution at first. Yes, I had to change it up and improve on it as we moved along.

Yes, I had to learn to deal with and overcome the word, NO.

A word that was killing me at times.

Yes, there were periods of trial and error. Some of my ideas didn't work. Some ideas I had that I thought were bad ideas initially, turned out to be very good ideas. The key here you have to try everything as you try and discover what works best.

The bottom line is simple. You have to start somewhere. You just have to jump down off your horse and fix that fence.

Pretty soon you will become a good cowboy or cowgirl.

Next thing you know,

You will start living your life the way we always had.

All you have to do is go into the bunkhouse and tell yourself you wanna be the best cowboy/cowgirl you can be.

Keep it simple.

Now go here.

More Insight and Advice for Caregivers

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 2,800 articles with more than 602,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room