Keeping Focus in the Face of Alzheimer’s

By Susan Price, LEEPS Volunteer Coordinator.

The ADRC of Eagle Country is a partner in the Language Enriched Exercise Plus Socialization (LEEPS) research study, a program to find out what effect exercise and social outings have on people with early stages of dementia and their caregivers. One of the LEEPS participants in Sauk County is Everett, and his wife Ann is his caregiver.  Everett was telling me that when he was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease it was overwhelming to both him and Ann.  However, once they were past the initial shock of the diagnosis, they began taking on the challenges.  It seemed like almost every day there was some new problem to navigate. They met day-to-day problems head on, with determination and a “can do” spirit. One thing they noticed, however, was that with everything else changing, Everett’s personality remained intact, and so did his creativity.

Everett had always written poetry, and when inspiration would strike, his creative juices flowed.  About a year after his diagnosis, he wrote the poem, “Blessings – an unfinished poem by Everett Bullock.”

sue-leeps-storyBlessed by a woman
who accepts my faults
and loves me so deeply
that I can see it at a glance,
feel it in a touch, and know it,
even from a distance.

Blessed by a country
that gave me solid building blocks
to build as I wished
and open highways to
hallowed places, highways
with minimal restrictions and
beautiful scenery.

Blessed by my ears and musicians
who dream their dreams and
make them into sounds quiet
or thunderous and somehow manage
to share their dreams.

Blessed by my eyes
and their visions of
generous hills and valleys
covered by trees, grasses,
and crops to feed us all.

Blessed by my friends
of all colors, sizes, and ages,
friends who lovingly
correct my misunderstandings,
help me up when I fall, and
show me how to help others.

Blessed by a mind that understands,
if imperfectly, the depth and width
of my blessing
while guiding my hand
to make fleeting thoughts
potentially permanent.

Blessed by my children
who have made me proud
to the bursting point
by their achievements
at work and in their homes,
and forgiven me my imperfect

Blessed by a memory
that blurs the bad yet
lifts the curtains
that sometimes hide the wonders
of a common and ordinary life
that has been blessed
by common and ordinary things.

“Blessings” was written in June of 2010, and that was the last poem he wrote for a long time.  He still had moments of inspiration, but wasn’t able to focus enough to write about those moments.  Everett’s daughter, who is a professor of literature and creative writing, realized that he was having difficulty in expressing himself.  She wanted to encourage him to continue his writing, but didn’t want it to become a frustration for him.  They sat down together to talk about what was getting in the way of his creativity and soon realized that it wasn’t the creativity, it was the process of putting his ideas down on paper.

This fall, as Everett watched the leaves change color and fall to the ground from the front window of their home, he was inspired again.  He quickly jotted down a note of what it was that motivated him to want to write a poem.  Using the process that his daughter helped him with, he expanded his original thought into the first draft of a poem.  After finishing, he began revising his poem right below the original, making the improvements while always referring to the poem above so he could keep focused on his inspiration. When he finished that revision, he did it again, and again, until the poem finally expressed his feelings. This is the poem Everett wrote in November of 2013.

Wind and Leaves

The wind gently excites the leaves,
and they exchange slow and soft caresses.
The wind holds a firmer grip and moves the limbs closer,
enabling more passionate contact among the leaves.
As the wind slows to a very gentle breeze,
leaves separate, pause, then spiral to the ground,
meeting again with less passion.
Leaves skipping around until the wind tires and the
leaves begin the process of enabling a new and glorious beginning
after the passage of time.

CLICK HERE to learn more about LEEPS

The LEEPS project was supported, in part by grant number 90AE0346/01, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.

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