This morning I got up at 5 a.m. for a bathroom visit and my pills. Since I had slept well, I decided to stay up for one of my "joy of quiet" sessions. I often use this early morning time for non-strenuous stretching exercises and mindfulness meditation.
I got carried away. When I finished and opened the bedroom curtains, I was surprised to see that dawn was breaking and took the photo, above.
The weekend blizzard with its disruption of my normal routines no doubt helped trigger this morning's extended period of contemplation and reflection. The enforced confinement gave me an opportunity to think about "where I am" these days.
The Home Front
The blizzard provided yet another reminder of how fortunate I am in my current living situation. Most of us elders want to "age in place"... and in my case, it's a place I've loved for over 50 years. But living alone later in life isn't easy, even under the best circumstances. Unusual disruptions -- like this blizzard -- make it almost impossible.
Loneliness is also a problem. I need more "alone time" than most people. But I can have panic attacks if I'm home alone and I'm having one of my bad days on the health front.
So, what's my current living situation? For over three years now, Nimesh and Bhawana, a young Nepali couple, have been living with me. They've become my second family. "We" are expecting a baby girl in late March.
In preparation for that event, we've converted the space below my master bedroom -- before a one-car garage -- into a bedroom for the expectant parents. We also installed a mini kitchen, which makes this lower level of the house a separate living unit.
Sharing the house with a young couple and having their friends coming and going makes this arrangement especially enjoyable. Friends who live in senior residences tell me what they miss is having young people around.
Last month, I had one of my regular checkups with my neurologist. He put me through the standard routine for Parkinson's patients. Afterward, he reported that for every item on the check list I was either doing the same or better than I was at the last visit about four months ago.
That report accords with my own feelings. Parkinson's is a progressive's disease, no doubt about that. But what I have could also be labeled "John Schappi's disease."
Parkinson's is very idiosyncratic. It proceeds one way with one person, another with someone else. As Michael J. Fox likes to say, we each get our own customized version of the disease, but unfortunately none of them come with operating instructions. So far, my version of PD appears to be progressing relatively slowly.
To keep it that way, I need to do more in the way of exercise, particularly those exercises designed to help with balance.
Consumer Reports noted that the study underlying the new guidelines had limited applicability. The article explained that older patients were not included in study and suggested adjusted guidelines for a particular group of seniors:
Our medical experts consider 150/90 a reasonable goal for most people 60 to 75 who don’t have other risk factors.In earlier blog posts, I've noted that keeping my BP readings under 150/90 is my goal. I also agree with the ever-growing group of doctors and scientists who believe that people in their 80s without coronary issues could consider ditching both their BP and cholesterol meds.
But doing that doesn't solve my blood pressure problems. To deal with the high spikes, I take frequent blood pressure readings so I can use nifedipine, a quick-acting medication for lowering BP in emergency situations.
As an additional complication, I can suddenly, and for no reason apparent to me, experience orthostatic hypotension (OT) -- the rapid drop in systolic blood pressure to 100 or below. OT is particularly dangerous because it can cause dizziness and fainting. As a safeguard, I try to carry a pill bottle filled with salt at all times.
More to come on all this.
The Bottom Line
Most of my early morning contemplation, however, wasn't about Parkinson's or dementia or high blood pressure or death and dying. Instead, it concerned the things in my life that still give me pleasure.
Quite a few of those things are no longer possible, like travel to exotic places, trips to New York or London to see five plays in four days, bike trips to Mount Vernon or Great Falls, and, yes, wild and passionate sex.
During my memory test, the doctor asked me to describe what brings me the most pleasure these days. My answer came quickly:
Good talks with close friends, particularly if there's a chance I can help a friend in need.