In honor of the 1 year anniversary of the Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment page, I’m delighted to be able to introduce a couple who is celebrating their 1 year anniversary of completing the HABIT program. Denny and his wife Bonnie participated in our October 2017 HABIT session and they have written the following reflection on their lives one year later. I was honored to work with them in HABIT and they continue in our follow-up support once a month so I get so see them regularly!
Since the first day I heard of Mild Cognitive Impairment - my life has changed in many and unexpected ways. I had been struggling with my inability to complete tasks that I could previously do and others that seemingly could NOT even start, much less complete. In earlier times I had a successful computer analyst career with a major Military Contractor. I had several international assignments in Australia, Korea and Norway.
Then my wife and I left our respective professions. We bought a 100 campsite KOA Campground in Illinois. We made many major improvements, including a new swimming pool, the addition of 6 Camping Cabins and cottages, and new Owners quarters and remodeled Camp store. After the first year and every year after we won a number of KOA quality awards.
We then retired from the Campground industry and moved to Grove, Oklahoma. This was a great retirement town and we made many friends. We are Square Dancers and so naturally we joined the Local Square Dance Club.
When I had unstable angina, it was quickly determined that I needed heart surgery. We drove to Tulsa the next morning, but not before participating in a demonstration square dance in our small town. They were short of experienced dancers. The next day I had open heart bypass surgery.
After a recovery period, I have been able to resume normal activities. We continued our international travel adventure trips and we also enjoyed our RV travels here in the United States. We did, however, decide to move to a larger metropolitan area, Mesa, AZ. It seemed prudent to have heart and other related medical services closer at hand. After all, we had grown up as city kids in Minneapolis, Minnesota, far too cold for us now.
The love and support of my wife is the key to our current life style. I do the majority of the driving and am driving safely - No accidents in over 15 years. I do use a GPS when driving in new areas.
We have 2 cats and 1 dog that really light up our lives. I try to do chores related to having pets. I admit I do have trouble keeping up with many other household chores.
My father was a World War I vet. He used to play in Admiral Sims Flagship Band. His major instrument was the Baritone Horn. When he passed, I inherited his horn. I am now taking lessons on his instrument. This results in lots of practice sessions between lessons. I am having fun and making progress.
We have started an exercise program where we do 45 minutes of reasonably strenuous activity 3 times per week. We use stretch bands, weights and balls (Plastic about 7 inch in diameter). This activity seems to have a real positive effect on my general outlook.
I believe the Habit program, with lots of help from my wife is making a real difference in my/our quality of life.
As the spouse and partner of a person with MCI I would like to share a recent experience; I'm so proud of our journey this past year.
I just returned from a special trip to babysit great grandchildren. I flew out of Phoenix on a Wednesday morning and returned the following Monday night. Not just a couple days, but 6 days, leaving my husband who was diagnosed with MCI three years ago home with our two cats and dog. Somehow I had thought the ability to make such a trip was a part of our past life. My biggest lesson was being able to let-go and give him the space to safely be independent.
He managed very well and I am so proud of him. Did he eat every meal left for him in the fridge? --NO. Did he waste away? --NO. He attended events on his memory support system (MSS) calendar, solo or with neighbors. The animals were healthy. The house was in order and all was well. Did he park at the wrong terminal on my return?--YES. But with phone connection he found me 2 terminals away, walking and by airport train. We found our way back by train and walking to the car! Life is good.
We celebrate that he functioned in a reasonable manner and seemed to thrive on the independence of my being away.
We both have the gift of confidence in how to live with MCI thanks to the HABIT program. In fact my question is how often do I create a co-dependent atmosphere; too helpful and protective? I loved my time with the kids. And together we will return to GA this month for a family graduation celebration.
Summer 2015 found my husband and I relocated to Mesa, Arizona. We had been winter visitors with our motor home for three previous winters. My husband’s parents, when living, had enjoyed a home for many years in Mesa and we had spent time with them. The first winter of 2013 he expressed concern about memory issues, also a symptom of low thyroid and his blood tests were abnormal. He was started on thyroid medication and we accepted our "new normal". By our third winter we had decided to relocate to Mesa as year around residents. Our 1st retirement in 2006 to our "forever home" was a small town in northeast Oklahoma. Major medical and cultural options were 70 miles away, fine when younger, but not looking good for aging in place. Our Arizona choice was a home in a 55+ community and we moved in late spring. With no summer visitors or winter visitor family in town, few neighbors here and everyone indoors we really missed our OK friends. I read a newspaper article about a clinical study being done that needed people. In memory of a friend who had recently died we decided to volunteer for the study.
During orientation testing we were seated in a conference room and informed that my husband showed signs of MCI and could not be in the study.
That started a quest for information on line and in books. That research started us on a three day a week exercise class and we attend faithfully, healthy eating knowledge which we attempt to follow and the realization of the need for socialization activities. With annual visits to our family Doctor he was testing at the same "memory" level fall 2015 and 2016.
A year later, I was searching on line for clinical studies information. Fortunately, I was told about the Mayo HABIT program and in October 2017 we were so lucky to be in the program group.
Finally a way to learn and understand what this MCI is, and how to live with this diagnosis! We found wonderful staff, so much information and understanding brought into our daily life. And the MSS (memory support system) Calendar; so valuable. I also appreciate the addition of our monthly support group sharing. We love to share the news about HABIT with everyone, and are so grateful for the experience a year ago. Our lives are full of activities we enjoy and the days, weeks and months fly by. Denny is enjoying Baritone horn lessons and his improvement and enjoyment is a result of hours of practice. Games like MahJong, cribbage, Rummy Cube etc. occupy afternoons and evenings. Bridge may no longer work, but other games are enjoyed by the two of us, or with neighbors and friends.
Volunteering gives us many hours of enjoyment, and a chance to give back to society. We usher at community college events, and soon at our Performing Arts Center. We have driven people to medical appointments, etc. for three years now for a local area agency. We enjoy Security Patrol in our community, and volunteer extra hours in the summer when so many members are out of town. We have become active in our local political group and joined a local Lions Club. We are active in and enjoy our church community.
Yes, there are losses in this "new normal". Challenges with technology, financial issues, travel and life style changes; difficulty with phone conversations, writing ability, and enjoyment of reading books. What is important are family and friends who understand; his driving skills remain intact, the busy MSS Calendar for independence; our respectful and loving relationship and our physical health. Also, our animals with their daily living needs; and gift of unconditional love and affection. Our life is full and satisfying, WE CAN LIVE WITH MCI!
Our team members have been so excited to see all the responses each week to our newsfeed topics! It is hard for us to believe it has already been a year. So far we’ve had nearly 2000 visitors to our page! It is so humbling to think we could be helping and supporting so many people. We’ve had over 500 unique visitors to the newsfeed article that describes the HABIT program! Our most popular topics have been the 1 minute breathing meditation for relaxation (over 700 unique visitors!) and our recent review of a Mediterranean diet meal kit delivery service published just a month ago (over 500 unique visitors already!). We would love to have you comment in the comments section on topics you’d like to read more about! Just let us know!