Clocks surrounding a bigger clock in the center encompassing a man reaching the top of a mountain.

On Hitting 80 and That Pesky Parkinson’s Thing

Time seems to be just rushing by. For some reason, hitting the Big 80 has taken on more significance than I would’ve imagined. After all, it was just one day in a long stream of days. I think it may be because I’m amazed at having lasted this long. I know I’m well past my sell by date and my warranty has definitely expired. If I were a cat, I think I’d have to say I’ve used up at least 8, plus some of my 9, lives.

Obsessing about aging

Or maybe I'm obsessing because some life insurance company sent me an actuarial table for my birthday showing my remaining average life expectancy as 7.4 years. A rather precise number. That would be March 26, 2030 if I don’t take into account leap years. Should I make plans for that day? And then there is that "average" thing. I know I’m not average, but in which direction? Am I not average as in having less or more time?

Maybe it’s because, concurrent with the big 80, I finished setting up a new revocable family trust, revised wills, and more kinds of power of attorney than I would have thought possible or necessary. Not quite a ream of paper and also some interesting questions such as, "Do you wish to leave an additional message for your survivors" or "specific wishes as to disposition of remains and remembrance service instructions."

So, I put down: "Ashes in the nearest dumpster and remembrance party with few words and lots of alcohol. Note: Wishes not legally binding on your heirs."

Add in Parkinson's disease

Then there is that whole pesky Parkinson’s thing.

Things are pretty much the same here in the Horton Household. Still staying more or less hunkered down because of my COVID risk. I’m still doing the virtual Parkinson’s classes, having physical therapy with Ryan twice a week, a private physical trainer session with Kristin once a week, and cranking the exercise bike 4 or 5 times a week. Just saying that makes me tired.

I do wonder about future years with Parkinson’s. It’s one thing to keep a positive attitude for a day, a week, or even for the past years. How am I going to keep pushing a positive attitude for an indeterminate number of future years?

Keeping Parkinson’s at bay through exercise is really hard work and many hours. How long am I going to be able to keep up that level of exercise as my aging body parts continue to wear out? Even with being a pretty compliant patient as to meds, diet and exercise, I notice my symptoms are slowly progressing.

I don’t like losing my independence and I dread becoming a burden for my care partner. Even though she says it is a part of our life long bargain, I’m not so sure it is. As my Parkinson’s progresses, I find myself thinking about cognitive decline and, that elephant in the room, dementia. I still have most of my marbles but ...

What am I going To do about these thoughts?

I’ve thought about this a lot. My path forward is to continue to do what has gotten me this far:

  • Always remember what you do now helps determines your future
  • Control what you can control
  • Be a compliant patient as to medications and diet
  • Exercise like my life depends on it (It does!)
  • Use all my coping skills to maintain a positive attitude
  • Be as independent as I can be considering my disabilities and safety
  • Practice open communication with my care partner, my family, and my friends
  • Fill every day with laughter
  • Live every day to the fullest and be grateful for every day

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