Try to Remember . . .

The popular and poignant song of years gone by is “try to remember the kind of September when grass was green, and grain was yellow. Try to remember when love was an ember, when you were a tender and callow fellow.  Deep in December it’s nice to remember . . . “ The tune of this ballad is pleasant, enduring, and has a nice swing and lyric. In addition, the words are appropriate even today when remembering seems to be a lost art.

It’s a ‘lost art’ which is actually misunderstood because those of all ages are now blaming all memory concerns on dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease as an excuse for an overloaded mind and schedule, disregarding the normalcy of some forgetfulness that comes with age. Consider the possibility that the forgetfulness of “normal aging” may be a result of failing to prioritize information. Give yourself time to accept that not everything is worthy of the space it takes up in your memory bank!

I find it freeing to be able to report that I have FORGOTTEN: the pain of lost love; the humility of doing something stupid in junior high; the times I sassed my Mother and caused her undue pain; letting go of memories of poor judgment. I will publicly and loudly give all persons permission to FORGET: that first speeding ticket; middle names of all your cousins; the dates of every birthday, anniversary, death and divorce that you ever once knew.

However, here’s a list of what is nice to remember: taking your pills as directed; saying please and thank you; paying taxes on or before the due date; where you consistently put your car keys; your room number if/when you are in a hotel or healthcare facility; your children, grandchildren, and/or spouse, if you are so fortunate as to have these. This is a short list of some of those things that a person ought not forget.

So instead of instant panic when you may have forgotten something, or misplaced something, simply smile as if with a secret and say to anyone who comments about it, “I think my memory bank is over-drawn just now.”

WATER, WATER, and MORE WATER!

If you were expecting some inspired words about Noah and the Flood, I am sorry that is not the topic for this time. Psalm 42:1 leads into my thoughts somewhat more directly: “As the deer pants for flowing streams . . . “

In the midst of summer, with heat and humidity creating “heat advisory” status, it is important to pay attention to the amount of water that we drink in any given day. Hydration is important because the body is comprised mostly of water. The proper balance between water and the chemistry of our blood (mainly sodium and potassium) determines how all systems of our bodies function. Adequate hydration is key in regulating body temperature, heart function, blood pressure, removing waste, proper function of nerves and muscles, and in maintaining a healthy metabolism.

If we wait until we feel thirsty before drinking a glass of water, we're already dehydrated.  Thirst is not the best indicator of hydration status. It is recommended that a person maintain the habit of being proactive in health maintenance or improvement by beginning each day with 16 ounces of water immediately upon arising. . . and then continuing to drink water throughout the day up to 64 ounces, ideally. The primary benefit is that water helps the body combat heat, aids digestion, aids the effectiveness of prescription drugs, jump-starts kidney and bowel function, and enhances heart, blood vessel, nerve, and muscle function. Think of it this way: Water is cheap medicine.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration include:

  • loss of appetite

  • fatigue and confusion

  • flushed, reddened skin in the face

  • dizziness, light-headedness

  • dark-colored urine

  • dry cough

While water is the prime fluid to support body function, the chemistry of the blood is supported by other foods and beverages that provide sources of sodium and potassium.  Think of a tall glass of lemonade, made from fresh-squeezed lemons with a few lemon slices in the glass. Sports drinks, fruit juice, soft drinks also supply some sodium and potassium, but be mindful of the nutritional contents on the labels. Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages are not recommended for optimal hydration because they actually pull more water out of the body than they add to it.

In addition to water and other beverages, foods that supply potassium that is key to the body's health, more so in hot weather, include bananas, cantaloupe, strawberries, potatoes, chard, spinach, and lentils. To make water-drinking more appealing, try adding sliced lemons and limes to a pitcher of water, or a few slices of cucumber, or perhaps whole strawberries and a mint leaf. TO YOUR HEALTH!

Strength and Hope Together . . .

I recently attended a faith community nurse workshop which focused on caring for the caregiver. That is to say, when a person is solely responsible for the care of a family member who is ill, often a healthy family member ignores his/her own self-care in order to provide the best care possible for the one who is ill. The challenges of that situation have been presented in this healthcare communication in the past. What prompted a revisit of this topic is the new book, Cruising Through Caregiving, by Jennifer L FitzPatrick, a social worker who offers support and practical ideas on the needs of an elder family member. It sounds intriguing that "cruising" was used in the title, since that implies "smooth sailing," something unrealistic to real life experiences.

The focus on the health of the caregiver can be applied to those of any age, whether providing care to infants, children, or adults; and the caregiving needs may vary in intensity and duration. 

While multi-tasking may be necessary from time to time, doing so every day or every week, depletes the overall strength of body, mind, and spirit. The effect on the body can become chronic sleep deprivation, irregular eating habits, increasing physical and mental stress, depression, and anxiety. If you note that in yourself or another family member or friend, consider reaching out to others who are concerned to get help with the care of the “patient” or the chores of the household, to provide some respite for the primary caregiver.

In no way do I intend to minimize this burden which can become exhausting. But let me note some suggestions that may be beneficial, including my offer of loaning the book Cruising through Caregiving, if you wish to read additional information.

Some guidance to consider:

  1. Be in the here and now; tend to the tasks of immediate need without those thoughts of "what about . . . [a host of other things]?" Schedule breaks for yourself in the day in order to spend even a few minutes taking a nap, reading, or visiting with a friend.

  2. Slow down; pace the tasks of the day over a reasonable time frame, allow for flexibility whenever possible.

  3. Take a deep breath. It is a tendency to become so caught up in the busy-ness that we forget the basic self-care of restorative deep breathing. Even better – practice deep breathing outdoors and/or during a leisurely walk.

  4. Unplug, as in making time for yourself, as noted above. Permit yourself the luxury of a nap or perhaps a brief outing which may energize you. One of my own memorable experiences along this line was when a friend took me to her favorite greenhouse to browse through the flowers and plants, relaxing in the moment, thinking only about the garden, for a short time.

  5. Nurture a joyful disposition. That is not to deny the difficulty of the work at hand, but look for times during the day that are worthy of gratitude. It need not be grandiose or life-changing; but there can be joy in a phone call from a friend, fresh linens out of the dryer, or a pause for a cup of tea. The attitude of gratitude can renew physical and emotional energy. It can be that "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow" from God's faithfulness.