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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's important to take good care of yourself!

Some days are more valuable than other days. Sometimes you just need someone to remind you about what’s important. Yesterday I received one such reminder and I wanted to share it with you.

I’ve learned to think of life as an adventure, comprised of many different journeys. In September of this year, my Mom was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s and a new journey started for us. As you can imagine a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is both devastating and terrifying.
There is not a lot of hope involved and it seemed, at least in the beginning that every time something wasn’t wrong, it was tempered with the words “not yet”. Every time the patient forgets something, you can’t help but think it’s the next step in a downward spiral. Thank God one can’t maintain that level of anxiety and you soon start to appreciate what you have now and not what is to be lost.
Having had some time to absorb the information I now like to think of my Mom’s issue as one of memory loss, it just sounds so much better than the “A” word. I’m relieved that she isn’t in any pain, and that is something we don’t have to worry about it. As many times with a catastrophic diagnosis you start to realize how lucky you are. It gives you a new perspective on life. I now thank God that my Mom was diagnosed so early so that we have been able to get her affairs in order, rally her friends and family to support her, and most of all, we are able to enjoy this time with her instead of taking it for granted. The greatest gift of an early diagnosis is time.
This week our journey took us to the “First Step” program with The Alzheimer’s Society in Hamilton. What an amazing group of people, both the staff and the members of the group. Instead of focusing on what is lost, the whole point of the program is to figure out where the brain has been compromised and how to deal with it, both as an Alzheimer’s patient and a care giver. There is a constant theme of being good to yourself, being patient with yourself and not being too hard on yourself.
The thing that really struck me in this meeting, the 2nd of four, is the number of things that we can do to protect ourselves from a future diagnosis of our own, and help strengthen the compromised memory of the patients suffering from memory loss. It’s amazing, although it shouldn’t be, how important it is, to treat ourselves right, right now!
The number one, most important way to keep your memory strong now and in the future is to keep moving. Who knew? People need to be exercising every day, walking, yoga; you name it, just get moving.
2. Eating right. Limit your salt, alcohol and caffeine intake and drink plenty of fluids. You should eat a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables. Next week the session is going to focus on organics and supplements and what really makes a difference.
3. Stay connected. It is really important as humans for us to be connected, whether it’s keeping up with family and friends or with a larger community like a church or association.
4. Work your brain! Word searches, reading, hobbies, cultural events it’s all good. Learning something new is really important too! It’s all about stretching your brain. Take a class, read the newspaper upside down, brush your teeth with the other hand, try a new food, it all gets your brain activated.
5. Take charge of your health. Have regular check-ups with your doctor and dentist. Make sure your eyes have been tested. Know your numbers! Your blood pressure, your cholesterol level, all that kind of stuff.
6. Reduce stress. I know it’s easier said than done. It’s really all about coping with the stress that we have in our lives, and reducing it where we can. Breathing exercises, taking a break, physical activity are all ways to reduce stress. Find out what works for you and take care of yourself.

Take good care of yourself, you deserve it.

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