Terms of Endearment

ADF-Winnemucca continues its free movie night each 1st Wednesday of the month at 5:15pm at Park Cinemas. 

With a wide variety of choices (The Fishermen’s Friends August 3 and Gladiator September 7), our focus is on friendship, making (and tweaking) connections, battling unbeatable foes until the end, and human compassion and understanding. 

Last week we shared Terms of Endearment. A 1983 Academy Award winner, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Nicholson, and many more stars re-enact family interactions – funny, odd, sad, ordinary and out-of-the-ordinary. 

I laughed and I cried. I connected as well as recognized that much has changed over the last 40 years.

As the film draws to a close, Emma, a young woman, wife, and mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Basically the doctor discovers two lumps, tells her it’s bad, and suggests she prepare to die. Scenes in the hospital display the farewells, the downward direction of the disease, and death (with a semi-happy ending that I really felt did not make sense in a world of grief). 

In 1983 a cancer diagnosis was often a death knell. I remember the seemingly quick death of a friend’s mom as I wondered how on earth life could possible move forward for Diane. But it did.

Today, improved surgery, advanced chemotherapy, and pinpoint radiation have greatly increased longevity. While I am certain hearing the words “It’s cancer” is frightening, there is also much hope that through appropriate treatment, many years of productive life lie ahead. 

A scary diagnosis does not have to diminish life as a whole. I do not want to downplay the horror of cancer, but rather to shine a light on the hope found through medical advancements.

Our goal in our movie series is to have a discussion right before or after the film. 

But with patrons clamoring to enter the theater for Top Gun, we knew we needed to quickly exit so a new reel could play. I wanted a few moments to link the cancer announcement to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. 

To state that one has cognitive decline is awful, but it does not mean that life is over – diagnosis today; death tomorrow. Many productive and happy years exist in-between and a fruitful life is possible. 

People with dementia work, maintain activities and engagements, and move forward through the quagmire of forgetting. Sports, hobbies, traveling, and grand accomplishments abound.

Knowledge of a terrible disease helps guide pertinent decisions like writing a will or getting Powers of Attorney papers notarized, but it also provides a setting for reaching goals of the present.

If I want to learn to speak Spanish, I can do so. If I want to travel to Canada, it is doable. 

If I want to make amends for wrongs and transgressions, opportunity awaits. 

If I want to ignore and pretend everything is only slightly askew, that is an option, too. 

I can also offer others hope. Being late because I forgot is an excuse; being late because I forgot but then remembered and appeared is honesty. 

Paying a bill twice because I forgot is an error; paying it twice but remembering I did so means next month’s billing will be a breeze – as long as I have adequate funds in my account at the present. Dementia travels through vast transitions.

AARP highlighted Winnemucca last year with a 3-minute video of our Fitness Park and Appreciation Wall endeavors. Guess what!! We’ve been selected again. 

Alicia Cramer led “HomeFit” in our Lecture Series. This is a guide to make certain that your home or that of a loved one is safe with accessible features like grab bars, railings, adequate work spaces at convenient heights, ramps, and removing obstructions like slippery carpet and wandering extension cords. 

Work on the new project has begun with photos, a Power Point outline, and a script in the works. 

A final product will appear in August – online at AARP as well as at www.adf-winnemucca.com It is never too early to plan for eventualities as we age and the HomeFit guide (available to you upon request) is a perfect place to start. 

I’m not suggesting that you grab a copy and adjust your home 100%, but rather that you think about getting around your home now and 30+ years down the road.

As Alicia states, “Fitting your home now means planning for adjustments in the future as needs change. 

A furniture arrangement that is fine today may become an obstacle course tomorrow. Flexibility is vital.”