Apr 25, 2013

If You Say You Can't Do Someting, You Can't

There is one thing I can always count on in the Alzheimer's Reading Room -- someone is going to comment that they can't do what I can do (what Bob could do). What makes this so hard to swallow for me is that I believe you can do more, and I believe in you more than you believe in you.

By +Bob DeMarco
+Alzheimer's Reading Room 

If You Say You Can't Do Someting, You Can't
I can't Sew. Or can I? Or could I?

One thing I learned about 40 years ago -- if you say you can't do something you can't. And, if you never try, you will definitely prove yourself right.

There is one thing I can always count on in the Alzheimer's Reading Room -- someone is going to comment that they can't do what I can do (what Bob could do).

I always think the same thing when I read those words, did you try?

Here is the most wild and crazy part of this dynamic.

I believe in you more than you believe in you.

I never met you and I believe you can do, even when you believe you can't.

Now please, let's be realistic before we say we can't.

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I can lift a 100 pound bag of fertilizer. I will assume that a large fraction of the readers of the Alzheimer's Reading Room can't lift a 100 pound bag. I'll give you that one.

Our reader Jocelyn couldn't lift her husband Paul. Paul was a big guy.

Oddly, I often wondered to myself -- could I lift up Paul and get him into a wheelchair all by myself?

After a great deal of thought, I finally decided I could and I would if I had too. Had too is the key word. If there was some help around, or available, that would be the best way to do it.

Now in Jocelyn's case, the fact that she couldn't life Paul, and I am not suggesting she could, did put constraints on what she and Paul could do. Nevertheless, I did read here on the ARR that they did make it down to the beach with assistance.

So you see, even with a big obstacle to overcome, Jocelyn did get Paul out into the light, and some good quality socialization. Even when Paul couldn't talk he could still shake hands -- which is a very fine form of nonverbal communication if you ask me.

Are you seeing a theme here?

Let me ask you a simple question.

What do you think the odds are that an 88 year old woman, who can't walk a block, and is falling down all the time, could walk 15 minutes non-stop on a treadmill? Opps, I forgot to mention, the 88 year old was also living with Alzheimer's. The odds?

If you didn't know me you would probably say -- she can't do it.

Well she did.

My mother Dotty did all of the above. By the way, even when she could walk 15 minutes on the treadmill, she still couldn't walk a block on her own.

However, right after she finished her exercise on the treadmill she did walk better than at any other time during the day.

I didn't realize it at the time but we were tricking her brain.

Yep, the exercise tricked her brain for a bit. How do I know this?

Dotty couldn't walk far. However, her legs, hips etc were working just fine. Little Dotty could press 30 pounds 36 times on the leg press machine in the gym. So her problems walking were being caused by the inability of her brain to send the correct message to her legs, not by weakness in her legs or structural damamge. Dotty could walk the farthest and fastest right after exercise on the treadmill.

In addtion to the treadmill, I also introduced Dotty to a stand up, sit down exercise in the gym. Prior to that exercise Dotty was falling down daily. She even fell and broke her finger.

After the introduction of the exercise and the treadmill, Dotty never fell for over 7 years. She actually fell for the first time on May 7, 2012. The day I knew the end was near. I should mention that Dotty did trip over something twice during those 7 years but we caught her.

I already know that most people give up when a person starts falling or has trouble walking. We did the exact opposite of what most people do. We went into the gym for a "real" workout.

If you have been here for a while you know that I admire and respect all caregivers. But sometimes you do get on my nerves.

If I had said, I can't, I wouldn't have accomplished very much with Dotty. I had to tailor what we could do to Dotty. Sometimes I had to think about it for while to come up with a way.

I do want you to know this, my Alzheimer's patient, Dotty, was capable of more than I could ever imagine. I say ever because even weeks before her death she was still proving to me that she could do more than I could imagine.

I freely admit, I can't sew. I bet some of you are very good at it.

I will say this. If learning how to sew would have improved Dotty's quality of life I can guarantee I would have been in the sewing Hall of Fame by now. Well, probably not. But, you get my point.

To be honest, I get a stomach ache when you say can't. I suppose I could swallow better if you said, I tried and tried and I can't.

I am not asking you to lift a 100 pound bag of fertilizer.

What I want to say to you is -- I know you can do more than you are currenly imagining. You will have to be a bit creative and tailor some of my ideas to your own situation.

You will have to use your imagination.

But at the end of the day I can assure you, just like my Alzheimer's patient, Dotty, your Alzheimer's patient is capable of more than you can imagine.

And the only thing holding you back is you.

I can't sew.

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