The Body Shop

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Last week my wrist wasn’t working right, so I took my arm to the Body Shop.

            “What seems to be the problem?” Dr. Scott asked.

            “It hurts when I start in the morning.  Sometimes it just locks up completely.  I’m having trouble lifting things and opening jars.”

            Dr. Scott manipulated my wrist. “Hmm, I’ll need to get in there and have a look,” he said.  “We’re kind of backed up here today.  One of the techs called in sick.  Can you leave the arm until tomorrow?”

            “Uh, not really.  I kind of need it for holiday cooking.  Can you give me a loaner?”

            “Sure can, but this is all I’ve got left,” Dr. Scott said.  He reached under the counter and brought out a man-sized arm.  It was covered in curly black hair.  The underside was tattooed with a skull and lightning bolts.

            I eyed it with distaste.  “That’s all, huh?”

            Dr. Scott shrugged.  “Yeah, sorry.”

            He helped me snap the arm into my shoulder socket.  My sweater barely stretched over the bicep. A few inches of hairy wrist stuck out below the cuff.  I had planned to stop at the deli on the way home, but decided to avoid the embarrassment.

            At the house, my husband was reading in his recliner. 

            “Well, did he fix your wrist?” he asked without looking up.

            “Not today.  He gave me a loaner.  Look.”

            “Whoa, that is some heavy duty arm you’ve got there,” he exclaimed.  “Cool tattoos.”

            “Not cool,” I said.  “I’m off-balance.”

            “Hey, let me see you flex that thing.”

I obliged with a scowl.

He grinned.  “Wow! That’s some bicep! I bet you could help me replace the bathroom faucet,” he said, pushing out of his chair.  “Let’s try it.”

            Sure enough, the loaner arm had more than enough strength to loosen the rusty bolt.  We fixed the faucet.  Then I hefted three forty-pound bags of water conditioner salt from the car into the basement.  I poured one bagful into the tank. After that, I carried the thirty-pound frozen turkey from the basement freezer into the kitchen. 

            “I don’t know, honey,” my husband said, “that arm is pretty useful.  Maybe you should keep the loaner.”

            “Right,” I said.  “And I bet this arm can strangle a spouse pretty well, too.”

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Dementia: Laugh or Cry?

Sometimes caregiving for a person with dementia becomes so difficult and absurd that the only possible response is— laugh.

Yesterday, I was cleaning out files.  The box of paper to be recycled was overflowing.  My husband wandered upstairs to check in. 

“Can I do anything to help you?” he asked, as he often does.  (I am blessed with a sweet-tempered, cooperative demented person, not like some caregivers who deal with belligerence.)

“Well, yes,” I answered.  “I need a large garbage bag for these papers.”

“Where are the bags?” he asked.  (Are you paying attention?  Most spouses would know where to find the garbage bags.)

I told him, “In the cabinet to the left of the sink.  They’re in a box under the medium sized bags.”  I illustrated the size spreading my arms.  “About this big.”

He turned to go on his errand.  Stopped.  “What am I getting?”

“A large garbage bag.”

“Where are they?”

I told him again. (By this time, I’m already thinking I should go get the bag myself.  But he wants so badly to be helpful.)

He made little grunts as he went downstairs–his arthritic knees complaining.

He was gone a while.  I moved on to thinning out the notes pinned to my bulletin board.

He came back holding—

three packages of snacks!!

Chip Ahoys.  Cheddar rice cakes.  Fig Newtons.

“Is this what you wanted?” he asked.

I looked at the snacks.  I looked at his face.  This dear man, who tries so hard, who vehemently denies his condition. (“I don’t believe it,” he says.)

What could I do?  I laughed and hugged him hard and long.

Then I took the snacks and went downstairs to get the garbage bag.

Caregiving is challenging. That’s why I value my caregiver group.  We Zoom twice a month.  These are the women who understand.  Who often can offer resources to assist with a problem. 

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Here are two excellent resources for caregivers:

Ulster County Office for the Aging  845-340-3456

1003 Development Court, Kingston, NY 12401

Alzheimer’s Association

800-272-3900

www.alz.org