Sam Bauman: Short story puts a human face on dementia issues
Recently I came across a short story in The New Yorker magazine that I thought did a marvelous job of looking more at the person as simply an injured human than as a client. The story is in the Oct. 21 edition and is titled “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” and it is by recent Literature Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro. Munro is a Canadian short-story writer with some 57 stories appearing in The New Yorker.
In the story, Fiona and Grant marry and live a rich life; he works as a college professor and she raises their two dogs. Then the signs all Respite workers know start showing up: she leaves notes identifying what’s in drawers, she wanders off from the supermarket, she forgets where she is, her name.
She finally moves to an assisted-living facility nearby. Naturally, their lives change. He visits Fiona and finds she is sitting at the bridge table, glad to see him but still interested in one of the male bridge players. Gradually, they begin to live in different worlds.
You’ll have to read the story yourself from here on. Any more digesting of it would demean sensitive, fine writing about a painful subject. Munro obviously knows the world of dementia but chooses to write about it almost as an abstract.
This is not the world of dementia that most Respite and Transport workers know. It is more caring, more flying high.
I’ve enjoyed many Munro stories, but probably none as much as “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” a title loaded with symbols. But that’s not really important. What is important for all of us involved in caring for friends, neighbors, loved ones or strangers is how lives are quietly changed in the forests of dementia.
The Carson Library has the issue of The New Yorker, or you can borrow mine — if you promise to return it.
Seniors on THE slopes
Skiing is a dangerous sport, defined as such by Nevada statute. But it doesn’t have to be risky if you don’t burst out on the black runs. And modern ski equipment is a lot kinder and easier to use than the 7-foot straight skis of yore.
For seniors who gave up the sport decades or more ago, the biggest change is in the skis themselves. Taking a cue from snowboarders, ski manufacturers began “shaping” skis as never before — that is, with deep side cuts along the edges, creating a curve that almost automatically makes the ski turn when weight is put on it.
This requires what Rusty Crook of Mount Rose called the contemporary technique. No longer does the skier have to make reverse shoulder turns, in which the upper body twists to engage the turn. This required shifting the weight from the downhill ski to the uphill one to begin the turn.
Now it’s much simpler. Instead of twisting the upper body around the turn, the skier simply shifts weight while facing downhill from one ski to the other and leans on the edges.
There is more to it than that, and I urge seniors considering returning to skiing to talk to ski shops such as CV Sports on the south end of town for advice on new gear. No need to go to the most expensive skis; unless a senior plans to take part in master racing, the middle of the assortment will do. And you’ll need new boots; those leather ones of the olden days don’t work with new skis and safety bindings. And if you buy new boots, be sure that you can wiggle your toes inside them.
Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.