Three years ago my husband, Dave, was diagnosed with Frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Initially, I did not believe it. How can someone in their 50s have this disorder? When the doctor told us it was terminal–with no cure or medication to slow it down-I did not hear a great deal more. There has to be ways to handle it. Somehow I’d figure it out.
Although I did not find a leaflet on ’10 Simple Ways to Live with Dementia’, I’ve found ways to thrive, despite our struggles. At the 3 year mark, Dave continues to perform well and here are the reasons why:
From the moment the doctor gave us the information, he’s never been angry or embarrassed of his dementia. He does not waste his energy on worrying about the future, or resisting what life is giving him. He told me about 3 months after his diagnosis…”I might not be able to do much about my mind dying, but I will do everything I could to keep my body healthy.” A positive attitude = clearer thoughts
Every day Dave takes the dogs for a hike, after he has a jog, bike ride or exercise in the fitness center. He says it is one of those few times when he’s relief from his frustrations. Dr. Amen, a specialist in brain science, states that exercise is one of the best ways to keep our brains healthy. It increases blood circulation and releases endorphins–enhancing our mood and calming the chatter in our mind. A recent study demonstrated that exercising will reduce the chance of developing Alzheimer’s by 35%.
Natural, unprocessed foods (fruits/vegetables) are low-glycemic, which maintains a steady blood glucose level–minimizing fatigue, irritability and foggy brain. They also contain anti-oxidants which neutralize the pressures within the body. Foods high in omega 3 fats (fish, flax seed, and almonds) are important for nourishing the brain cells. Since Dave’s taste buds are changing, I’m finding creative ways to fit in 5-8 vegetables and fruit per day. I cook sweeter vegetables like yams, corn and carrots; include fruit and flax seeds into his smoothies; and use plum sauce .
Dave takes high grade vitamins & minerals (Usana nutritionals) to fill the gaps in his diet and increase the amount of anti-oxidants. He also takes gingko biloba, which increases blood circulation to the brain; CoQ10, a powerful anti-oxidant and energy booster; and a pharmaceutical-graded omega 3 (fish) capsules.
Purpose in Life
Dave has a great reason for getting up in the morning. He volunteers at woodworking shows, an Alzheimer’s Society, and is a Nordic walking pioneer. He’s also chores around the house, which change with his or her abilities. I remember one night I asked him how his day was…”Great”. Why? “Because I must clean your car.”
Dave enjoys being with people, although he may not recognize them, or be able to continue a fluent conversation. He’s tripping his memory, difficulty, talking and listening areas.
Despite Dave’s patterns (watches the weather report at 7:40 and 8:00 am, runs on Monday and Friday at 8:10 am), he likes to do something new each day-walking and biking in various locations, road trips, or assisting me with shopping. Variety arouses the plasticity change in the mind, which wakes up brain cells. Turning it on is easy as cleaning your teeth with your opposite hand, or counting backwards from 100 by 7.
Dave sleeps 11 hours at night (takes melatonin at a better quality sleep) and contains a 1-2 hour nap daily. Dave is most alert when he wakes up. Dr. Amen recommends 6-8 hours/night. Less than 6 hours triggers mood instability and diminished cognitive ability.
Duck carving has been Dave’s passion for more than three decades, but hand tremors are making it hard to carve fine details. He’s replacing carving with building jigsaw puzzles. He spends hours scanning the table for bits, using his fine motor places to pick them up and match them in. Sometimes we work on it together, or play with trionomos or dice games.
Just like in a plane emergency, I must place my oxygen mask on before I will help Dave. I create time to go out with friends, exercise, and meditate. When I feel sad or overwhelmed, I write in my diary. It will help to release my tears, and reminds me of what I am profiting from this journey–patience and ability to let go of things I can not control (dementia). Energy is contagious. . .happier and calm’me’ = simpler and healthier care-giving.