The "Unplug" Challenge


The "Unplug" Challenge

081125unplugThis has been the summer of the "ice bucket challenge" fundraiser for ALS. All month I've seen friends douse themselves with ice water to raise awareness of this neurodegenerative disease that eventually results in total paralysis. The ice water is apparently to remind them of the nerve-shocking effects of ALS. What a successful fundraiser this has been for their organization!

I wonder, what kind of fundraiser would be useful in making others more aware of symptoms of dementia and brain injury? Short term memory loss, in and of itself, doesn't sound too frightening, but I'm sure there must be something that would allow one to experience the life changing event that it is.

Perhaps the activity that would most closely simulate what it's like with dementia would be to "unplug" for a day. No electricity, no technology, for a whole day.

I will attempt to relate this to Dean's present life:

  • Without proper lighting, our senses would change...Dean has this challenge with vision in only one eye and with little periphery vision in the other. He falls a lot, just like we might in the dark. His other senses suffer too. Limited hearing in just one ear and having no sense of smell are what he lives with every day.

  • No electricity would make our daily tasks more challenging...Dean has difficulty with many chores we take for granted. Taking a shower, for instance, is a major undertaking.

  • No technology means no cell phone or computer. For us, this would be very limiting, especially if all our contact info is on our phone...Dean misses every day the enhanced communication and socialization that these gadgets bring into our lives. But not having a cell phone or Blackberry for some might be like having part of their memories erased. Say hello to Dean's world.

  • No television or entertainment...Dean's greatest desire is to interact socially with his friends, and this has become more and more difficult as dementia takes over his life. He misses this activity as much as people would miss their television programs.

Yes, Dean misses out on a lot in life: his senses, ability to perform simple tasks, being able to remember what he did just a short time ago, and just interacting normally with others. In a sense, he has become "unplugged".

But God has not left him powerless. Many times angels have kept him from falling. He has a faithful wife caregiver who is able to perform the work he can no longer do, and most of all, he has retained his desire and ability to worship God. Human relationships may have suffered, but his spiritual relationship with God has never been better.

If caregiving for Dean has taught me anything about life, it's the meaning and value of being "plugged" into God.

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