Some of Yours

Just logged on to check my email and the first thing I found was another phishing attempt. Oh, for crying out loud! These things are coming faster and the ‘phishermen’ are getting bolder.

This one was ‘from’ my email provider. Not only did they want my username AND password but they were also trying for a credit card number. Good grief. Do I look like I just fell off the turnip truck?

The problem is, for every 999 people who have not just fallen off the turnip truck, there is one who has. That is all the scammers need to make a killing.

So, just in case we have a reader who is not ‘scam savvy’, a couple of tips: scammers are often non-English speakers but the messages are in English. Misspelled? Clumsy wording? Be aware. Ask for your password? Run the other way. Soliciting a credit card number from you? Contact customer service and ask them. Do not give a credit card number out to anyone who asks for it. Lastly, check the details on the email. If it come from Sylvester in Syracuse you probably have a scammer.

Anything suspicious can get forwarded to your service provider. I also label anything from that sender as spam so I don’t have to deal with him again.

Just another public service announcement.

Oh! And I just noticed something wild. My service provider lists as ‘tells’ for phishing attempts the following: asking for personal information, mass mailings and details (show details). That spells AMD. How about that? [Lin/Linda: ::groan:: you are REALLY stretching it!!!]

And after all that, I want to talk about pessimism/optimism. Another good grief. I know the shady morals of so many is not necessarily a reason to be upbeat and sunny. My delivery and timing stink. However, if you look at it another way, we are looking out for one another and that is positive. Yes? Yes!

Lin asked me to read Dan Roberts article about how so many of us see a more dismal future than others our age who do not have AMD. The piece says we expect health deterioration and Lord knows how many other bad things just because we have vision loss.

The first thing I thought about was why should vision loss lead to worse health than any other sensory or orthopedic or general health issue? Sounds like the depression talking to me.

Roberts emphasized there being so much reason for optimism with all the tools and medical breakthroughs. I agree with him totally on that. That is part of the reason we continually share news on research and ‘toys’.

However, what I think his real message was was this: the study did not differentiate between those actually getting the information, the training and the support and those who are not. Roberts asks what the differences would be. He also asks – about knowledge and skills training lapses – the question “why not?”.

You see things and ask “Why?” but I dream things and I say “Why not?” – George Bernard Shaw

(And, yes, JFK paraphrased it a bit but he took it from Shaw.)

Part of the reason for this website is to spread knowledge and to spread hope. Every day progress is being made. Every day things are happening to make our lives – as the visually impaired – easier.

Know someone without knowledge? Someone without hope? Give him some of yours. We want to be able to say “Dan, we hear you and we are trying to do our part.”

Written October 29th, 2017 Continue reading “Some of Yours”

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An Exercise a Day

Hey. It is Sunday. I have changed bedding, mopped the bathroom floor, done dishes, done laundry and written most of a psych report (why don’t people look on the backs of checklists?). I have HAD IT. No mas. Break time. The sun is shining. It is around 75 degrees outside (screwy weather) and I am heading for the deck.

Sunday has become my work around the house day. Monday it is back to the real world and if I want to get anything done at home, it has to be done Sunday.

Heaven help me when I am no longer working and don’t have the press of deadlines. Nothing will ever get done!

Feeling good about getting a pup. We picked the lively and inquisitive one. I know she may be more of a handful than any of her sisters but I need a walking buddy. I have been “going to walk the dog” for more than 60 years and going to walk by myself feels wrong.

Bringing me to the promised topic, as well as the promised nagging ?. Exercising is great for avoiding depression!

We have talked about the crazy percent of older people who are depressed and the even crazier percent of older VIPs who are depressed.

Right now many of us are not going to improve our visual standing anytime in the near future. Gotta live with that. That leaves us with fighting the second dragon, depression.

Our friends whom we have not met yet in Nord-Trondelag county Norway have been participating in a huge, as in HUGE, longitudinal health study that started in 1984. One of the things they were measuring was the relationship between exercise and depression. To begin with they found an exercise a day keeps the psychiatrist away. Those who did not exercise at the start of the study were 44% more likely to develop depression than exercisers. Total amount of exercise and depression were negatively correlated (more exercise went with less depression). However, they also found as little as one hour of exercise a WEEK reduced chances of depression by 12%!

Similar studies in Sweden and the United Kingdom found similar results. The benefits of exercise were seen in everyone, including older folks, and the intensity of the exercise did not matter. Easy was OK. Small doses were OK. The idea was to move.

Of course – pushing my luck with some of you; I know – aerobic exercise and focused attention meditation twice a week has been found to improve depression in two months or less. That research comes out of Rutgers. The Rutgers study sequenced the two, one after the other, but it is possible to get both exercise and focused attention in one activity. I am talking about the Eastern practices such as yoga and tai chi.

OK. End of lecture. Just hoping to find one convert out there somewhere. It really does work. Any brave soul out there who wants to try it? All you have to lose is your depression.

October 22nd, 2017 Continue reading “An Exercise a Day”

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Come Dance with Me – Again

End of a busy Saturday. The big news of the day is we met our puppy! She is all picked out and will be ready to come home to her new mommy and daddy on November 18th.

I also got back to my exercise classes. My routine will only be in place for about a week before I go running off on vacation but that is alright. Things will settle down soon after. I hope. No more ride snafus, food poisoning or adventures for a bit.

While I like a little adventure (but not ride snafus or illness!), sameness and predictable are really good. I like the familiar, too.

Such as the Eastern screech owl ‘whinnying’ outside the window. He has been there most nights for several weeks now. According to web sources, that is a territorial defense cry. Wonder what he is defending against? Apparently there is a hidden drama unfolding in the backyard!

One of the other things I got done today was going through some Healio and Medscape posts for articles. They are still publishing that Manchester, U.K. research saying eye shots cause anxiety and depression and my reaction is still “Duh! Ya think so?”

But the next things I came upon were actually related to that article – about depression and mental functioning – and gave me more reason to harp on exercise again.

I absolutely love it when things I enjoy doing are found to be good for not only physical health but cognitive and emotional health, too! It makes me feel so righteous to say I am doing it because it is recommended even though inside I know I would do it anyway. Like being told eating an entire chocolate cake with a half gallon of vanilla ice cream is a nutritious meal! Recommended at least three times a week!

Oh well, that might be a little extreme (a girl can dream; can’t she?). However, the Medscape article ‘Dancing Keeps Older Brains on the Ball’ gave me a rationale for being the ‘grand old lady’ at hip hop class as well as one of the ‘dowagers’ at Zumba.  The article talked about how the integration of info from multiple sensory sources such as hearing the music, watching the instructor and feeling how your own body is moving in space is good exercise for your brain. The researchers discovered the demands of learning new dances every week or so in addition to the balance demands of dancing literally beef up your hippocampus. The hippocampus (seahorse in Latin as I mentioned before) is your memory center and tends to shrink in old age. The researchers ended by saying “our study results suggest that social enrichment and a combination of physical and cognitive activities influences neuroprotection best”. So there!

And of course I got so excited about having a SCIENTIFIC rationale for putting on my boogie shoes a couple of times a week, I did not leave myself space to write about the other two articles I found. But good news: one of the articles on exercise and depression talks about the levels of exercise effective for battling depression and guess what? It was practically nuthin’. See? You can read the next page even if I am being a noodge!

October 22nd, 2017

Continue reading “Come Dance with Me – Again”

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Looking for Answers

Lin gave me a preview of the page Nancy submitted as a guest writer. I am so glad Nancy took our invitation! Hoping that more of you do the same. [click here for Nancy’s page.]

Now, we all know I am a little ‘different’. Might as well embrace it. My immediate supervisor at school loves to tell me “You are such a psychologist!” She’s telling me I’m weird; right?

Anyway, even though I am not normal, I see parallels between Nancy’s experiences, my experiences and maybe even your experiences, too.

We are all “of a certain age”. At 64, I think of myself as a youngster with AMD but Lin tells me new Facebook members keep getting younger. What the hey is happening there?!?!? Anyway, this is not a disease of the young.

Most of us had parents or relatives with AMD. Nancy worried about developing it herself. I never did but Daddy was into his 80s when he lost his sight and his condition was never named for me. Since relatives were pretty few and far between on my father’s side, he was a sample of one for me. I never gave a thought to it being hereditary. Oops. Maybe you were not so obtuse and worried like Nancy.

Both Nancy and I have had the anxiety of waiting for things to go to hell in a proverbial handbag. One of the problems with a slowly developing condition is it lulls you into complacency and the next thing you know WHAM! No longer so complacent.

Many of us are facing limitations. These are limitations we don’t like and don’t want. Limitations that hit right at our independence and threaten who we are and how we interact with our worlds.

Then there are the attempts to combat this stuff. I went research and science. Fits me. Nancy went nutrition. Me? Not so much. Even though my ‘little’ nephew – 6’5” and possibly still growing – assures me food is the most important drug you can put in your body, I am not going there.

And in keeping with the season I just had a really excellent piece of pumpkin spice cake. What? Don’t give me grief; it was orange! Antioxidant color; right?

Back on track – but it was yummy cake! – we are all looking for answers. We are all hoping for the miracle cure. Is it coming? I truly believe so. Just don’t expect it by next Tuesday. In the age of great medical breakthroughs, you would think our little problem would be easy but it’s not. It is a frustration we all feel.

Then…the elephant in the room: depression. We have talked about it before and will talk about it again. We have all felt it. Some of us have the resources to help us bounce back. Some of us need help finding those resources. Lin said something about citing pages, etc. about depression so I am sure several of these words will be blue soon. [click here for an article about depression in people with AMD.]

What I learned from Nancy’s page? We are all having similar experiences. Nancy, probably you, me, too. So maybe I’m not so weird after all? Maybe?

written October 2nd, 2017 Continue reading “Looking for Answers”

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No Brainer

I have not been able to get my act together all weekend. I have had low motivation and not a lot interests me. Depressed? Not exactly.

To ‘fess up’, I must admit what I have been doing all weekend is listening to an audiobook. I have been sort of ‘into’ Kellerman’s The Golem of Paris which I discovered is actually the second in a series. Now I have to listen to the first one!

My head has been full of the legend of the Golem of Prague and the Book of Enoch (weird, I know, but I kid you not. They are integral parts of the story line.) But what if my head were full of worries and hopelessness and dread?

I would not, by a long shot, be alone. PsychiatryAdvisor reports 57.2% of older people with vision impairment have depression. That is up from 43.5% of older people without vision loss. If those numbers are accurate, half of you folks are depressed. Crap. This is not good!

Some of this will be a recap, but I like to think it bears repeating. For example, I want to repeat gradual vision loss or loss in one eye but not the other is very anxiety producing! Where do you think the saying “waiting for the other shoe to drop” came from? Waiting for something bad to happen ain’t good.

Then there is the interaction between loss of everyday competence from vision loss combined with the loss of everyday competence from age-related cognitive decline. There is a one, two punch! Facing loss of independence from that combo is depressing.

This combo leads me right back to what I have preached and preached and preached some more. Exercise helps to keep you sharp. Learning and using low vision strategies and technology helps to keep you competent. Sharp, competent people keep their independence. Independent people are less likely to become depressed. End of lecture once again.

The second installment of the article starts with what I consider to be a ‘no brainer’. To wit, if you can save your vision, you can help save your mental health. Like I said, no brainer. Go for your shots. Investigate changes in your vision immediately. Hard to get more basic than this.

Next the article talked about using your low vision skills and technology and a little thing called behavioral activation. What behavioral activation basically is is getting back into life. Too bad transportation is a pain in your sweet, little tushie. If it gets you to your activities – even an hour and a half early – use it. Swallow your pride and ask for a ride. Remember Cabaret? “What good is sitting alone in your room?” Good for depression! Instead,”go taste the wine! Go hear the band!” I bet Liza Minnelli never realized she was a behavioral activation therapist?.

There are several paragraphs on what psychotropic medications NOT to use when you are depressed. I think those deserve more research and their own page. For here, just remember, question your doctor about the vision side effects of EVERY medication you are prescribed. You are your own best advocate.

OK, I have nagged you enough for one page. What did mother say? “I only do it for your own good.” Me, I’m going back to my book. Did you ever hear of the Golem of Prague?

written August 27th, 2017 Continue reading “No Brainer”

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One Foot in Front of the Other

We recently had a reader ask how it is possible to maintain hope, faith and optimism, etc. when “everything” is slipping away. She stated she does not want this disease because she had watched it “destroy” others. Her friends do not want to associate with her because of the “doom” she is facing.

Oh, my…where to start. First of all, I guess I need to say “I’m with you! I don’t want the damn thing either.” But wanting it or not wanting it really does not make a bit of difference. We do not get to make decisions like that in our lives. We only get to accept (or reject, but if you fight reality, I can practically guarantee you will waste a whole lot of energy and in the end, still lose. To paraphrase “I fight reality, reality always wins!”). We also can find ways of coping.

That appears to be a magic word: cope. This is not a fatal disease. If you are still breathing and conscious, you are capable of dealing with things and trying to make them better. Your hope is in every breath you take. Breath.

Remember one of my favorite people whom I never met, Viktor Frankl, said “the last freedom left to any man is determining how he will react to his circumstances.” This disease will not destroy us. It may take things from us, but not destroy us. We destroy ourselves through our reactions to it.

Our reader may not realize it, but she IS coping. She reached out to this website. She has sought professional help and she is involved with the state services for the visually handicapped. She is doing what she can do.

We don’t have to like having AMD and losing sight. We don’t have to be happy about it. We just have to keep moving. I mentioned this before but another one of my favorite, never met people, Winston Churchill, said something like “when you are going through Hell, keep going!” It is in pouting and denying reality – in stopping in the middle of Hell – that we are destroyed.

To address the part about being hopeful, optimistic, etc, a bit more, there are times all of those pretty thoughts are going to desert us. Times there seems – as in appearances and impressions – there is no hope. Those are the times we simply put one foot in front of the other. Determine what is next and do it.

I have been told I am “in love” with DBT. I am, for the simple reason it works. Mindfulness and staying in the moment work.

For example, the Beastie Baby has been diagnosed with lung cancer, but right now she is sleeping peacefully on the floor next to me. Right now, life is good. We will take one day at a time, one hour, one moment if need be. We will not grieve (much) and ruin life when things are good. Lesson: stay in the moment. Deal with the now. By dealing with each moment as it comes, we can handle a scary future. Buying future grief and hardship is a bad investment.

I could address the absolutes – always, never, everything – but I won’t. Not much, at any rate. We just need to remember few things in life are truly that black and white, that cut and dry. Every dark cloud has a silver lining and every silver cloud has some dark inside.

This has been a little jumbled, but that, after all, is my mind. I guess in summary, what I want to say is:

Accept this is happening, Recognize you are not powerless, we all have choices we can make.

Understand if we take care of each moment as it comes, the future will take care of itself. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

We don’t need to be hopeful or optimistic all of the time (even though there is reason for hope). If you cannot muster any faith in your future, just put one foot in front of the other and move. You will be surprised where you end up.

Continue reading “One Foot in Front of the Other”

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Mi Depression, Su Depression

We all know adjusting to sight loss is stressful. We are well aware of the times it has freaked us out but how aware are we of the impact our loss has on those around us? How often does anyone notice the stress on family members ?

Back in 2009 – that is 8 years ago, guys. Long enough this report could be in the third grade! – there was published an article entitled Family Function and Low Vision: A Systematic Review. The authors lamented they had not had many appropriate articles to review and – guess what – I found pretty much next to nothing since then. Families of the visually impaired are being ignored!

But yet families are a huge support to those who are losing their sight. Adequate support – both practical and emotional – protects against distress and other negative health concerns. The way we stay functional and sane is by having people there for us.

The problem is sometimes family members go through all of the stages of adjustment we do. Shock, denial and mourning are not just for us. But since we are the identified clients, we (hopefully) get the services and the attention. They don’t.

Visual impairment is related to separation and divorce. (Or at least it was in 1993. THAT study is old enough to vote.) There have also been more recent studies on emotion contagion.

Yep, mi depression, su depression*. And if that is not bad enough, the spouses of the visually impaired even have worse physical well-being than controls. Jeez.

The suggestions from the authors were pretty basic: education and mental health counseling. Family members need to know about visual impairment so they know how and how much to help. Overprotection can be nearly as damaging as neglect. Mental health support is pretty self-explanatory. Find and investigate the negative belief systems and see what you can do to refute them. Provide emotional support.

In short, the fight can be as hard on the guy who holds your coat as it is on you. Family members need to know about your vision loss and be told the level of support you need. They need to have time to do things for themselves and they need someone to support them as well. None of this is easy on anybody but it is easier when we do it together.

*translation of title is “My Depression, Your Depression” as in the phrase “Mi Casa, Su Casa” which literally translated means “My House, Your House”.

Continue reading “Mi Depression, Su Depression”

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