“31 Five-Second Reminders that Will Make Calmness Your Superpower”

This blog post, from Marc & Angel’s “Hack Life,” is a list of 31 five-second reminders that will make “calmness your superpower.”  Here’s a short excerpt from the intro:

“The ultimate measure of your wisdom and strength?  How calm you are when facing any given situation.  Yes, calmness is a human superpower.  The ability to not overreact or take things personally keeps your thoughts clean and your heart at peace, which instantly gives you an upper hand regardless of your circumstances.  Thus, the biggest and most complex obstacle you will ever have to overcome is your own mind.  If you can overcome that, you can overcome almost anything.  And by ‘overcoming,’ I’m referring to the skill of mindfulness, and learning to effectively control your emotional responses to life’s unexpected tests.  Because most of your deepest pain and frustration on a daily basis will come from the way you respond, not the way life is.”

And here’s one of the five-second reminders:

“When you are lost in worry, it is easy to mistake your worries for reality, instead of recognizing that they are just thoughts.”

Check out the full list of reminders here:

www.marcandangel.com/2018/04/08/31-five-second-reminders-that-will-make-calmness-your-superpower/

Robin

 

Jackie’s example of a letter to family/friends to help them communicate better

On Tuesday, Jackie Vandenberg, who lives in NY with multiple system atrophy, asked people to share her open letter to family and friends.  The goal of her letter is to help family and friends communicate with her better.  I think it’s worth sharing with everyone as it is not MSA-specific but person-specific.  Others may want to use this open letter as a model for their own letter to aide in communicating with your family and friends.


Dear friends and family,

I always appreciate when friends and family come to visit. I noticed
lately that some people struggle knowing how to talk with me as my
ability to communicate decreases. I have brainstormed a few things to help…

1) I enjoy socializing even though I cannot speak back. I’m interested
and am listening when others tell me about themselves. I like to hear
about how people are doing, their families, hobbies, vacations,
experiences, weekend activities, etc.

2) I wish to be spoken to as a person and an adult. Please speak to me
normally by not using slower or louder speech, or a reduced vocabulary
and sentence structures. I like to be part of the conversation by making
eye contact and being spoken to directly.

3) It’s easier/quicker for me to be asked ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions.

4) When we’re together you can talk or not talk, either is fine. I’m
comfortable with quiet too.

5) I use a piece of cardboard with the alphabet written out to
communicate, we call it a Ouija Board. I can point to letters to spell
out words. I need someone else to hold the cardboard and adjust it as I
go. It can take a while for me to spell out sentences so I appreciate
everyone’s patience. It’s ok if you don’t understand a word the first
few times, as Tom and Adrianne can attest to.

6) When I’m using the Dynavox communication device it’s ok to fix
letters/autocorrect for me.

7) A symptom of MSA is excessive drooling. If you’re comfortable doing
so you can use a tissue or washcloth to wipe my mouth.

8) The best way to contact me to make plans is on Tom’s cell phone
through call or text. I check my email and Facebook messenger every
couple of days and am happy to get messages there too.

I hope this list is helpful for everyone! I love having friends and
family visit and appreciate all of our time together.

With Love,
Jackie

“The Happy Hours” – great idea for socialization and other thoughts from KLS

Kathryn Leigh Scott (kathrynleighscott.com) has recently published three books about caregiving —
“The Happy Hours”
“A Welcome Respite”
“Now With You, Now Without”

In January 2018, I shared Denise’s short review of “A Welcome Respite.”

In 2016, Kathryn Leigh Scott (KLS) published the beautiful book “Last Dance at the Savoy,” about caring for the love of your life through the very end. KLS mentions Brain Support Network for help with brain donation in this book. Denise’s short review of that book is posted to our blog, www.brainsupportnetwork.org/blog.

After listening to a February 2018 interview* of Kathryn Leigh Scott, I think “The Happy Hours” might be of interest to some of you. I haven’t read it yet but, in the interview, Kathryn shares the core idea of the book. In her husband Geoff’s final years — after he was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) — she was determined to make the most of his remaining time. And she was determined that neither Geoff nor she, as the caregiver, would be isolated.

KLS and Geoff instituted “happy hour” at their home. The happy hour took place in the master bedroom. She removed all signs of medical equipment or disability. She added a bistro table and chairs. There was an open door policy. Anyone could come. Geoff wore an amplification device so that his voice could be heard. Apparently these gatherings were very important to her husband as they helped him be remembered by others.

In the interview, she mentions a few other things worth sharing here. First, she says that the key is to have patience. She tried to remember that “Geoff can’t help it.”

Second, she found the role reversal of caregiving very difficult.

Third, she addressed the importance to her husband Geoff of his engaging in research. He participated in trials. And he donated his brain for research. They both participated in an environmental study of PSP.

Fourth, she recommends hospice at home. She doesn’t call hospice “end of life care” but rather “quality of life care.”

A few things were said about PSP in the interview. I’ve put some notes about that below for the PSP folks on this email list.

Robin

———–

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4hzl7SYseA&feature=youtu.be

The caregiver-related part of the interview is basically from minute 6 to minute 22.

From minute 6 to minute 10:27, Kathryn Leigh Scott offers some general information on PSP. She describes PSP as being part of a family of five progressive movement disorders. The five are PSP, corticobasal degeneration, multiple system atrophy, Lewy body dementia, and ALS. The host of the interview incorrectly refers to these as auto-immune disorders. KLS said that 20K people a year are diagnosed with PSP in the US. PSP research is informing Alzheimer’s research.

“Getting Sick Can Be Really Expensive, Even for the Insured” (NYT)

This eye-opening article in today’s New York Times (nytimes.com) is of most relevance to the multiple system atrophy community as MSA often hits in ones 50s.  The article addresses how “getting sick can be really expensive, even for the insured.”

The author notes:

Among people in their 50s who were hospitalized, about 10 percent never went back to work.  Some others scaled back their hours or took lower-paying jobs.

The full article is well worth reading:

www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/upshot/getting-sick-is-really-expensive.html

Getting Sick Can Be Really Expensive, Even for the Insured
Beyond medical costs, a trip to the hospital can mean a permanent reduction in income for many Americans, new research shows.
By Margot Sanger-Katz
New York Times
March 21, 2018

Robin

 

Same pattern of brain function loss in some dementia as in savants

In CBS Sunday Morning story from today, Dr. Bruce Miller from UCSF describes his work with some dementia patients.  He has compared brain scans of dementia patients with those of a child savant:

“We are seeing the same pattern of loss of function on the left side of the brain, [with] increased function in the right posterior parts of the brain, the parts that allow us to take something visual in our mind and put it on a canvas.” 

In some dementia patients — so called “acquired savants” — “the disease that destroys some brain areas activates others, unlocking hidden talent.”

Watch the full TV story here:

www.cbsnews.com/news/meet-a-painting-savant/

The story features one patient with frontotemporal dementia.

Robin

 

Ten examples of self-care – pick one today!

Both care givers and care recipients need to practice self-care. Here are ten examples of self-care I ran across this morning:

1. Meditate, or sit in silence for 10 minutes.
2. 15 minutes of reading a book.
3. Connect with a new person.
4. 15 minutes outside — in FRESH air!
5. Take a warm bath or shower.
6. Attend the fitness class that you’ve been wanting to try.
7. Mindfully enjoy a meal.
8. 30 minutes un-plugged.
9. Shop for, prepare, and cook yourself (or your family) a meal.
10. Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea.

Can you pick one today?

“Changing The Way We Look At Dementia” (KHN)

Judith Graham writes a “Navigating Aging” column for Kaiser Health News (khn.org). Many of her columns are worth reading, like a recent one on changing the way we look at dementia. The article is about an effort by Dementia Friends to change the way people talk about dementia as that “can make a big difference in people’s lives.” Another person says: “It’s about increasing awareness and empathy so that if you encounter someone in the community who needs some help, you have some basic skills.”

Here’s one story from the article:

“Bob Savage, an 86-year-old diagnosed two years ago with Alzheimer’s disease, became a Dementia Friend last year and now speaks to groups in Connecticut that are promoting the program. Some of what he tells them: ‘As soon as people learn you have Alzheimer’s, you’re stigmatized. People treat you different, like you don’t understand, and that’s very upsetting.’ Even if memory is lost, intuition and emotional understanding remain intact, Savage explained. What he and other people with dementia want most is ’emotional connection — that feeling of love that we had, that we may have lost’ when a diagnosis was delivered and a sense of being a burden to other people descended.”

You can get more info about the US effort called Dementia Friends USA from their website, dementiafriendsusa.org.

The full article is copied below.

Robin

——————————–

khn.org/news/changing-the-way-we-look-at-dementia/

Navigating Aging
Changing The Way We Look At Dementia
By Judith Graham
Kaiser Health News
February 8, 2018

In November, six people with Alzheimer’s disease and related types of cognitive impairment stood before an audience of 100 in North Haven, Conn.

One by one, they talked about what it was like to live with dementia in deeply personal terms.

Before the presentation, audience members were asked to write down five words they associated with dementia. Afterward, they were asked to do the same, this time reflecting on what they’d learned.

“Without exception, the words people used had changed — from ‘hopeless’ to ‘hope,’ from ‘depressed’ to ‘courageous,’ from ‘empty’ to ‘fulfilled,’” said Erica DeFrancesco, a clinical assistant professor of occupational therapy at Quinnipiac University who helped organize the event.

The session, followed by an hour-long discussion about dementia, is part of a new grass-roots movement in the U.S. aimed at educating people about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, dispelling the painful stigma associated with these conditions and enhancing public understanding.

A centerpiece of that effort, known as “Dementia Friends,” began just over a year ago under the auspices of Dementia Friendly America, an effort spearheaded by 35 organizations across the country.

Currently, more than 13,200 people are registered as Dementia Friends in the U.S., and organizations in 14 states (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Wyoming) are hosting events to sign up more.

Globally, almost 14 million people in 33 countries are involved in the movement, which originated in Japan.

To become a Dementia Friend, most people attend an hour-long presentation focused on several themes:

* Disease vs. typical aging. Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are illnesses of the brain, not a natural consequence of aging.

* Scope of symptoms. Dementia triggers a wide array of symptoms, not just memory loss.

* Quality of life. People with dementia can live well, often for years.

* Maintaining identity and respect. People with dementia retain a sense of self and aren’t defined exclusively by this condition. (Testimonials by people with dementia are sometimes, but not always, included.)

“If we can change the way people look at dementia and talk about it, we can make a big difference in people’s lives,” said Philippa Tree, who spearheads a well-established Dementia Friends program in England and Wales, with about 2.3 million members, that has licensed its model to the U.S.

“It’s about increasing awareness and empathy so that if you encounter someone in the community who needs some help, you have some basic skills,” said Meredith Hanley, project lead for Dementia Friends USA.

William Anderson, chief of police for St. Cloud, Minn., went to a session of this kind late last year, with about 40 members of his department. One exercise — writing down all the steps involved in making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich — made an especially strong impression.

“I’d never thought about everything that goes into something that simple: taking the peanut butter and jelly out of the cabinet, unscrewing the tops, getting a knife, spreading the sides of the bread, putting the pieces on top of each other, cutting it down the middle,” Anderson said, adding that this was only a partial list.

“The point they were making was that folks with dementia might remember some of these steps but not others. At some point, they’ll get distracted or forget what they were doing and go on to something else. To me, that was eye-opening; it explained a lot.”

Now, Anderson thinks about “how we can make life more manageable for these folks, in simple ways.” An example: The St. Cloud Police Department’s building has a large vestibule, with two big glass doors. “If you have dementia, you’re going to walk into that vestibule and probably turn around in circles because the doors don’t have an identifier saying ‘police,’” he said, adding that introducing new signage is under consideration.

Committing to a concrete action — visiting or phoning a family member with Alzheimer’s regularly, watching out for a neighbor, volunteering with a community organization or trying to make public venues easier to navigate, for instance — is required to become a Dementia Friend, though sponsors don’t check if people follow through.

“This is a social action movement,” said Emily Farah-Miller, executive lead for ACT on Alzheimer’s, a statewide effort in Minnesota to create dementia-friendly communities and disseminate best practices regarding dementia in health care settings.

More than 10,000 U.S. Dementia Friends come from Minnesota, which began recruiting residents for the program two years ago, before it became a national initiative.

This year, Minnesota ACT on Alzheimer’s leaders are working with African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, West African and Hmong communities in their state to make culturally sensitive adaptations to their programs. And they’re piloting a modified version of Dementia Friends in several elementary schools “to create a dementia-friendly generation of youth,” Farah-Miller said.

Individuals can also earn a “Dementia Friends” designation by watching an introductory video on Dementia Friends’ USA website, as well as a second video about dealing with people with dementia in various settings such as restaurants, stores, banks, libraries, pharmacies, faith communities and public transportation.

If you encounter someone who seems confused and disoriented on a bus, train, taxi or subway, try to understand what that person might need, one of these videos advises. Speak slowly, using short, simple sentences and give the person adequate time to respond. Remain calm and reassuring and avoid arguing or embarrassing the person who may have forgotten where they’re going.

Bob Savage, an 86-year-old diagnosed two years ago with Alzheimer’s disease, became a Dementia Friend last year and now speaks to groups in Connecticut that are promoting the program.

Some of what he tells them: “As soon as people learn you have Alzheimer’s, you’re stigmatized. People treat you different, like you don’t understand, and that’s very upsetting.”

Even if memory is lost, intuition and emotional understanding remain intact, Savage explained.

What he and other people with dementia want most is “emotional connection — that feeling of love that we had, that we may have lost” when a diagnosis was delivered and a sense of being a burden to other people descended.

In 2016, Savage moved to a campus in Southington, Conn., where 133 people with dementia reside in assisted living or a skilled nursing facility. Stephani Shivers, chief operating officer of LiveWell (formerly the Alzheimer’s Resource Center), which owns the campus, is leading Connecticut’s Dementia Friends initiative.

“What I’ve seen is that barriers seem to dissolve for people who attend” information sessions, she said. “Whether it’s ‘I’m not sure what to say to someone with dementia’ or ‘I’m nervous about being with someone with dementia,’ the ‘I don’t know what to do’ falls away.

“It becomes me relating to you, a person with dementia, as another human being — a human being living with a cognitive disability, just like people living with physical disabilities.”

KHN’s coverage of these topics is supported by John A. Hartford Foundation and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

“Unfortunate Irony Turns Renowned Scientist Into Caregiver For His Wife”

This is a nice article about a scientist who spent years studying Parkinson’s and then became a caregiver for his wife who was diagnosed in 2011 with Lewy body dementia (called “cortical Lewy body disease” in the article).  The wife, a former preacher, had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2004.

This article was published on Flatland (flatlandkc.org), the digital magazine of KCPT Public Television in Kansas City, MO.  My browser did NOT like the Flatland website, which is a shame because there are some photos accompanying the article.  The article was shortened and re-published on NextAvenue (nextavenue.org).  Below, find the text of the original article and links to both websites.

Robin


www.flatlandkc.org/news-issues/cover-story/bill-priscilla-neaves/ –> my browser did NOT like this website

www.nextavenue.org/sad-irony-scientist-caregiver/ –> shorter version of article is here

Faith And Love
Unfortunate Irony Turns Renowned Scientist Into Caregiver For His Minister Wife
By Barbara Shelly
Flatland
January 1st, 2018 at 6:00 AM

Churchgoers at a tidy, white-steepled United Methodist Church in Carrollton, Missouri, heard a frank admission from their guest pastor one spring morning in 2007.

“When asked to preach this Sunday, I almost said no,” Priscilla Wood Neaves told the congregation. “Why? Not because I lacked training and experience, and I have always enjoyed preaching.”

She had, in fact, fought for the right to preach. As a girl growing up in the 1950s in the Texas panhandle, Neaves was told that women could not be ordained ministers in the United Methodist Church. The information was erroneous, but not until she left Texas for college, marriage and motherhood did she encounter a female pastor who could disprove it.

Eventually Neaves graduated from the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, became an ordained Methodist minister and hospital chaplain, and gathered a wealth of life experiences to frame her sermons.

And then life dealt a blow that temporarily stilled her voice.

“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease three years ago,” Neaves told the congregation in Carrollton, “and I have not formally ‘proclaimed the Word’ since then. I guess it was because of feeling a mixture of fear and anger directed toward God.”

Listening in the congregation to the candid and unusual sermon was the preacher’s husband, Bill Neaves. Never entirely comfortable with church and organized religion, he kept a low profile. Few in the country church knew that, while Priscilla was wrestling with her medical diagnosis, Bill was engaged in a professional and political struggle involving the search for cures for diseases like Parkinson’s.

Childhood sweethearts from Spur, Texas, Bill and Priscilla Neaves both packed up briefcases stuffed with credentials when they moved to Kansas City in 2000.

He had been dean and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, a lauded institution where Nobel Prize winners worked with other faculty members to advance science and medicine. She was a chaplain at Children’s Medical Center Dallas — a front-line responder to small patients and their families in moments of fear, relief and overwhelming grief.

James Stowers, founder and CEO of American Century Investments, had consulted with Bill Neaves about a research facility he was creating in Kansas City. He envisioned a place in his hometown where premier scientists would have resources and time to study the causes of diseases and embark on a search for cures. Stowers asked Neaves to be the first president and CEO of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.

“I was enthusiastic about it,” Neaves says. “Few people want to support basic science.”

But he needed to persuade Priscilla. She had balked at several other moves when opportunities had arisen. After a dinner with Stowers; his wife, Virginia; and other family members, she agreed. Neither Bill nor Priscilla Neaves had any way of knowing that during the next few years his new job would come to involve politics as much as science, and her physical and spiritual health would be put to the test.

Priscilla quickly dived into life in Kansas City by joining the board of directors of the medical ethics research and advocacy group now known as The Center for Practical Bioethics. She also joined the Institutional Review Board for Children’s Mercy Hospital.

The first signs of trouble appeared in the fall of 2003. Priscilla didn’t feel well; something was off, she said. She wasn’t able to walk with her normal stride. When the odd symptoms persisted for a few weeks, Bill tapped his medical contacts.

In January 2004, a physician at the University of Kansas Hospital diagnosed Parkinson’s disease. Another physician at Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis concurred.

As Priscilla noted in her sermon a few years later, the news came as a blow. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that hinders the brain’s ability to produce dopamine, the transmitter that enables people to regulate motor functions.

Still, the disorder progresses slowly in most people, and Priscilla was accustomed to a busy and productive life. She became a full-time volunteer chaplain at Carroll County Memorial Hospital in 2006 after the couple purchased a farm about 60 miles northeast of Kansas City. In that capacity, she provided spiritual resources and facilitated support groups for cancer and Parkinson’s patients.

Though his wife’s health was a concern, Bill Neaves was ebullient about progress at the Stowers Institute in its early years. First-rate scientists had indeed been willing to come to Kansas City, and they were engaged in rigorous and productive research.

One cloud on the horizon was legislation that kept resurfacing in the Missouri General Assembly. Pushed by Matt Bartle, a lawyer and at the time a state senator from Lee’s Summit, its stated purpose was to ban human cloning. But Bartle’s definition of cloning went far beyond a scenario in which a squawking baby might emerge from a laboratory. His bill aimed to ban even the copying of human embryos as small as a few dozen cells.

Those miniscule lab dish embryos are home to embryonic stem cells that can be formed with a patient’s DNA. Scientists believe the newly created cells can be used to repair tissue, organs and nerves damaged by all manner of injuries and diseases. In the early 2000s, they eyed the laboratory procedure with great hope.

To Bartle and others, it represented a moral threat. That’s because, once embryonic stem cells are harvested, the tiny embryo that sheltered them is destroyed. What some people viewed as a somewhat mysterious lab dish procedure, religious conservatives saw as the willful termination of human life.

The issue made it to the November 2006 ballot in the form of a constitutional amendment that would protect all scientific research in Missouri that was legal under federal law.

Jim and Virginia Stowers spent $30 million to bankroll the campaign supporting the amendment. Opponents formed their own coalition and also raised millions of dollars. Missouri citizens were besieged by television ads alternately lauding the promise of stem cell research and issuing dire, if misleading, warnings about cloning.

Bill Neaves was in the thick of it all. He wrote essays and traveled the state, speaking to groups to explain what embryonic stem cell research meant for science and the Stowers Institute. He touted its potential to stop or slow the suffering from devastating diseases. He mentioned Parkinson’s disease. What he never said publicly was that the person closest to him had been diagnosed with that illness.

The constitutional amendment passed by a razor-thin margin — a difference of 50,800 votes out of 2.1 million cast.

Ultimately, science itself stepped in to bring an uneasy truce. A Japanese researcher found a way to make adult cells behave like embryonic cells, with the same capacity to repair and rebuild damaged body parts. The reprogramming method is less costly than the somatic cell nuclear transfer procedure, and it sidesteps the ethical issues. It is now the preferred avenue for many scientists, including those at the Stowers Institute.

With his wife at his side, Bill Neaves had done his part to stand up for science. But science could not immediately return the favor. It could not stop the frightening changes that were going on in Priscilla’s body.

“For more than a quarter-century, I have retreated each summer to the Beartooth Wilderness on the Boulder River in Montana,” Priscilla Neaves wrote in July 2008. “I relax, enjoy, meditate and relate to God’s magnificent mountains and forests. Perhaps my Native American heritage encourages me to celebrate nature — my paternal grandmother was half Choctaw.”

From the deck of the wilderness home she and Bill cherished, Priscilla wrote of her love of nature, as experienced in Montana, West Texas and New England — all places she had lived. Bill would later include the meditation in a compilation of his wife’s sermons and writings. Soon after that, Priscilla’s illness made further trips impossible. “Mercifully,” Bill wrote in the afterword of the book he compiled in his wife’s honor, “we rarely realize that we are doing a beloved thing for the last time.”

The previous couple of years had been difficult. The couple lost their son, William Jr., in May of 2007. Living in Houston, he had waged a long struggle with alcoholism and died of its complications. “Priscilla was amazingly stoic about it, but I know it must have been incredibly difficult for her,” Bill says now.

She continued her work as a voluntary chaplain and frequently preached sermons in the chapel of Carroll County Memorial Hospital.

“When questions about the meaning and purpose of life hit us like a tornado, God’s grace can be most tangible,” she told her small congregation in 2009. “Job’s way can also be ours. I know. I have been there.”

By this time the Stowers Institute was thriving. Jim and Virginia Stowers had given $2 billion worth of American Century stock to its endowment. Labs were filling up with impressively credentialed scientists. A spinoff biotechnology company, BioMed Valley Technologies Inc., had been formed to move treatments and therapies into clinical development.

In June 2010, Bill Neaves announced he would retire as president and CEO of the institute. He had already begun handing off the day-to-day operations to a protege, David M. Chao.

Neaves talked about wanting more time for research and various projects. He was especially excited about returning to research he’d begun 40 years ago, studying the asexual reproduction patterns of some species of lizards. He didn’t disclose publicly that his family was dealing with an all-consuming illness.

Priscilla’s symptoms were increasingly resembling more of a dementia-type illness than traditional Parkinson’s disease. At the end of 2011, specialists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, found that Priscilla was suffering from cortical lewy body disease — a brain disorder closely related to Parkinson’s but even more devastating. The destruction proceeds beyond motor control to destroy brain neurons associated with cognitive functioning and movement.

Bill Neaves recalls that his wife absorbed the terrible news calmly. “Priscilla was still pretty much intellectually intact then, and I was very impressed with what she said,” he recalls. “The neurologist said, ‘This is what we have, and it will probably be fatal within a year and a half.’ Priscilla said, ‘Well, glad to know what I’m facing, and I know firsthand that a lot worse things have happened to people than what is happening to me.’”

The couple had moved several months earlier into an apartment in Bishop Spencer Place, a retirement facility in midtown Kansas City that has provisions for nursing care. Linda Yeager, who was chaplain there at the time, remembers that Priscilla sought her out.

“She was very anxious for me to know that she was a minister herself, and she was very interested in helping other people,” Yeager said. “She wanted to share her books, and she wanted to do research and help people. She was greatly respected and loved.”

But Priscilla’s disease was progressing rapidly. By 2012, she was experiencing anxiety, confusion and paranoia. Daily tasks such as routine teeth brushing became a struggle.

On the advice of her family physician, Priscilla moved to a Leawood facility that treats patients with dementia. She became bedridden, mostly paralyzed from the chest down, with limited use of her hands. Once a passionate voice on nearly every topic, she now spoke only intermittently.

For nearly a year, Priscilla was officially in hospice care.

Bill, who describes himself as “a compulsive-type person,” began preparing for his wife’s death. He made cremation arrangements. He visited a printer and prepared a death announcement for Priscilla. Then he focused on putting together her book, “Sermons and Meditations,” which offers an eloquent, widely sourced study of theology from the perspective of a feminist and an environmentalist.

“That was a very therapeutic thing for me,” Bill says of the book project.

And then the mysterious, maddening, wonderful creation that is the human body served up another surprise. At the end of 2013, Priscilla’s disease stopped progressing. It had run its course, a specialist told Bill. With good care, she could live for a long time. But the damage already done — the paralysis, the speech loss, the loss of memory and cognition — was likely irreversible.

These days, Bill awakens most mornings at 5 a.m. in the apartment he and Priscilla share at Bishop Spencer Place. He sets about slicing up fruits for Priscilla to eat at lunch and supper. About an hour later he escorts his wife to the skilled nursing portion of the complex and sees that she is settled at her usual breakfast table. He makes sure she drinks water.

Bill, 74, and a year older than his wife, then drives to the Stowers Institute, arriving around 6:30 a.m. A tall, rail-thin figure in blue jeans, he glides around its hallways at a clip that feels like a trot if you’re trying to keep up with him. He knows everyone by name, from top scientists to the servers in the cafe. He teaches a research course and writes papers, mostly for scientific publications. He also serves on the boards of several institutions.

Sometimes he visits the institute’s reptile facility, where he and a Stowers scientist, Peter Baumann, continue the study of unisexual lizard reproduction.

A couple of years ago, the scientific journal “Breviora” honored Neaves by lending his name to a new lizard species, aspidoscelis neavesi — Neaves’ whiptail lizard. And very recently, the “Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology,” out of Harvard University, named a different species aspidoscelis priscillae — Priscilla’s whiptail lizard. This is only appropriate. When they were much younger, Priscilla spent months collecting lizards with Bill in the deserts of New Mexico.

Bill Neaves returns to Bishop Spencer Place around 10:30 a.m. and stops in the cafe to buy Priscilla a cup of coffee. He helps her eat lunch and, again, makes sure she drinks water. Then it’s back to the Stowers Institute until about 3:30 p.m. Late afternoons and evenings are consumed by a routine of coffee, dinner, companionship and bedtime preparations.

It’s an “incredibly ritualized schedule,” Bill acknowledges. “But I read somewhere a few years ago that one of the practical bits of advice for people who are into Zen is to turn what might otherwise be routine activity into real rituals. That seems to work for Priscilla and me.”

If life had served up a different set of circumstances, Bill Neaves might be traveling the world right now, speaking at scientific conferences and soaking in the tributes due the founding president of a world-class research facility.

“I’m really glad I don’t have to do that anymore,” he tells me.

“Not that I wouldn’t rather be sitting on our deck looking over the trees at the Beartooth Wilderness in Montana with Priscilla, enjoying a glass of chardonnay, but this isn’t … isn’t bad,” Neaves says. “It’s better than I thought it would be. There’s still enough of Priscilla there to make it feel very rewarding to have the time with her.”

And what about Priscilla, the woman who broke barriers in her church, raised two children, comforted grieving families and lived with Bill in places as far-flung as Boston and Kenya?

For all of her life, she had been a reader, a writer and a thinker. As a hospital chaplain, she kept copious notes about her encounters with patients and their families.

“I was impressed by this woman’s strength,” Priscilla wrote, after an encounter with a single mother. “She did not act like a victim, although she has been victimized and suffered many hard times. She did the best she could, and that was pretty amazing.”

Now the ravages of a terrible disease have left Priscilla unable to write down her thoughts, or verbalize them. But remarks in the sermons that her husband compiled seem prescient.

“Cherish the time you have with those you love,” she counseled a group in the Carroll County Hospital Chapel. “Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t let the deadlines and demands of daily life delay the dreams you share.”

And this: “As we all move closer to a grave, the fleeting time we are given with each other is so precious when measured against the time of eternity. How are we using that time?”

—Barbara Shelly is a veteran journalist and writer based in Kansas City

“Life After the Diagnosis: Expert Advice on Living Well with Serious Illness” – podcast

Last summer, Steve Pantilat, MD, was interviewed by GeriPal, a blog (geripal.org) that focuses on geriatric medicine. Dr. Pantilat is a palliative care physician at UCSF. The interview occurred shortly after his book was published — “Life After the Diagnosis: Expert Advice on Living Well with Serious Illness for Patients and Caregivers.”

We posted a link to the podcast of the interview on Brain Support Network’s Facebook page at the time, but I just got around today to listening to the podcast. Here’s are some highlights for me:

* “There’s this idea that somehow if we talk about what’s really happening, like how serious your prognosis is, or the fact that you have in fact a life limiting illness, that somehow that’s gonna take away hope and so, let’s not talk about it, we need to leave people with hope. But I worry that what that leaves people with is false hope. And that fundamentally, false hope is no hope. And if we talk about hope, we can really promote it and we can encourage it and to recognize that people have hope, even when we take care of people who are days away from the end of life, who are actively dying. They still have hope for things that are meaningful to them. And by talking about it, we can really encourage people to have hope, and to build on and to recognize, yeah, there’s hope for cure, sure. But there’s hope for a lot of other things that can coexist within the hope for cure, or alongside that hope, and we can encourage that.”

* “[We] talk about a good death but I don’t see death as good. I’ve seen it only as being sad and filled with grief and loss, and nothing we do seems to make it good. And the tragedy … I recently took care of a forty-two-year-old woman with an eight-year-old child in the hospital. She died in the hospital. People would say, ‘Oh, that’s a bad death,’ but you know, what was bad is that she died. And if she had died at home, it wouldn’t change the tragedy and the sadness and the grief and loss associated with her death.”

* The interviewer mentioned a story in the book about Sergei, an 80-year-old whose wife has dementia. Sergei hopes that the wife will get better. The interviewer asked Dr. Pantilat if this is false hope. “That I would say is false hope, we know that dementia does not reverse. …I realize that there was nothing I could say that would fundamentally change his hope in his wife getting better and I realize my role at that point was just to support him in that hope. … But, you know, there’s a time to push and there’s a time to accept and support and that was a time to accept and support.”

* “Realistic prognosis focuses hope. They give patients reliable and realistic information they can use to make decisions.”

* “[We] often give people this false choice, we say, ‘Do you want quantity of life or quality of life?’ And it’s somehow, if you want quantity of life, you have to accept all the possible interventions to attack your illness or to treat your illness. Every chemotherapy regimen, every procedure, and so on. And what we know now is that, in fact, there comes a time when some of those things not only don’t help you live longer but may actually ruin your quality of life. Chemotherapy in the last six months of life, for example. And that somehow if you want quality of life, it means you’re not gonna live quite as long. And what we know from Palliative Care, from the research, from the literature in our field, is that you can get both. And Palliative Care helps you live better and at least as long, maybe longer, but certainly no shorter, and you can live well and long. And part of my book, the point is to really get people to engage with and ask for and demand Palliative Care to live well and to live long.”

* He talks about using a word like “progress.” “Like progressive illness, your illness has progressed. ‘Oh, that’s great!’ No, that’s terrible. So I now think about this when I talk with my patients and I say, ‘Your heart failure is worse,’ rather than saying, your heart failure has progressed…”

* “Dignity is one of those very loaded words that’s in fact very personal. … And so we often use this word as a code for certain things. Like, respect your dignity by withdrawing interventions and what we should … If we’re gonna use that word, we [physicians] really need to embed it in what the patient and family think of as dignity and their interpretation of dignity and try to support that idea, not our own.”

* “If despite CPR, you die, your final moments will have been spent at the center of a tornado and while a team works on your body, your family will be watching the horror or be banished from the room. In either case, they won’t be with you, at your side, holding your hand.”

* “I think there’s a way in which people with serious illness think, ‘Why not? Why not just try it?’ And the evidence really suggests that when your illness is very advanced, to the point that you die of it, CPR isn’t really gonna help you. It’s not gonna help you at all and you’re gonna end up sicker. I think there’s a way that people think it’s like reset the computer. … But we all know that even if you survive CPR, you’re gonna be worse off than you were and there are implications, maybe not for you, I think this idea that somehow it’s suffering for the patient, I think is not right. We do CPR generally on people who have died. And so I don’t see that there’s a lot of added suffering to the person who’s died but there is this impact on their loved ones who might be at the bedside. And we have to remember what their experience is as well.”

* “[We] have to be careful to remember that all we’re saying is, ‘When you die, when your heart stops and you stop breathing, we will not try to revive you because it won’t work. We’ll let you die peacefully.’ But that has no bearing on all the other care that we will continue to provide. And we have to emphasize what we’ll continue in the meantime and all the care we will provide to make sure people are comfortable and well cared for so that we don’t see this decision about CPR at the very end as somehow implicating something more than it is.”

You can read the full transcript and listen to the podcast here:

www.geripal.org/2017/07/life-after-diagnosis-podcast-with-steve-pantilat.html

Dr. Pantilat was also interviewed at the Commonwealth Club of California last summer. A recording of that interview can be found here:

www.commonwealthclub.org/events/archive/podcast/life-after-diagnosis-how-live-well-serious-illness

And he was interviewed on KQED’s Forum show last summer. That recording is here:

ww2.kqed.org/forum/2017/08/01/living-well-with-chronic-illness/

Happy listening!

Robin

 

A revolution in health care is coming (The Economist)

This interesting lead article in the Economist magazine (economist.com) is about how we will all become our own doctors, leading a health care revolution.

Here’s an excerpt:

Better flow of medical data “is likely to bear fruit in several ways. One is better diagnosis. … A second benefit lies in the management of complex diseases. … Patients can also improve the efficiency of their care. … A final benefit of putting patients in charge stems from the generation and aggregation of their data.”

And a full link to the article:

www.economist.com/news/leaders/21736138-welcome-doctor-you-revolution-health-care-coming