Aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment, swimming, travel

Whales, dolphins…and angels

We just got back from a long weekend in Puerto Vallarta.  It had been more than 10 years since we were last there, and we had forgotten how much we like it.  This time we stayed a block from Los Muertos beach, walking distance from all of the city sights and in the thick of the action.  We loved the vibrancy, the color, watching the local families crowd the beach on what was for them a holiday weekend, and the food.  We ate lots of street tacos and several meals with our feet in the sand, drank far too many margaritas, took the water taxi to the little beach town of Yelapa, and saw some spectacular sunsets.

On Monday we took a 1/2 day whale watching trip with Wildlife Connection – a small, biologist-run outfit that takes people out in zodiacs so you can get really close to the whales.  It was a blast watching the humpbacks frolicking in Banderas Bay.  We got some amazing photos, but I think this is my favorite:

 

The next day we went out with Wildlife Connection again, this time to find dolphins with the hope of swimming with them in the wild.  One of the biologists studied a particular pod of dolphins for her Master’s thesis, and they became friendly with her and will often swim up to people.  We found the pod, and I volunteered to jump in first along with another man since Don did not want to go in.  A couple of dolphins swam right up to me and circled around, one of them so close it nearly brushed against me.  In just a few seconds they were gone, but the experience will stay with me for a lifetime.

It all happened so fast that it was hard to get a picture, but Don managed to capture it in the last second of a video he took with his iPhone, and I was able to extract this very blurry image from there.  That is me in the  back with a dolphin swimming right in front of me.

Image may contain: ocean, outdoor, water and nature

Unfortunately for the people who went in the water after me, the dolphins became more interested in surfing the wake and in teasing people by swimming towards them and then flashing past, so no one else got such an up close and personal experience.  I feel truly blessed.

I also feel blessed that Don and I got to spend such a fun time together, “making memories” as my grandmother always used to say.  These times together are becoming even more precious as we face his aging process and the cognitive challenges it has brought.

The trip could have ended badly as Don wandered out of the VIP Lounge at the airport and found himself on the wrong side of security without his passport or boarding pass.  He had left to go to the restroom, which he didn’t realize was inside the lounge, and then got disoriented and lost.  I started to worry when he didn’t return, and tried checking the restrooms both inside and out of the lounge.  One of the waiters in the lounge saw my distress and was about to go out and search with me when I got a call from Don on my cell phone and he told me where he was.  The waiter told me he would watch our stuff while I went and retrieved Don, and then when we returned was so solicitous, bringing us bottled water to take on the airplane, and checking every few minutes to make sure Don was ok.  I tried to find him to thank him when we left to catch our plane, but didn’t see him.  A few minutes later he came hurrying up the departure hall to say goodbye to us.  He was a lovely, kind man who went above and beyond to help us…an angel when I really needed one.

 

Aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment, Retirement

Feeling positive

Don saw a new neurologist today and although further tests have been ordered we both left feeling better about his/our situation.  The new doctor is a good listener and observer and less inclined to leap to a diagnosis than the one we saw last year.  He has ordered a DATscan, which tests for Parkinson’s disease, based on his observations of Don’s movements and our report of his physical and cognitive issues, but says he thinks it will likely be negative.  He acknowledged the role anxiety can play in all of Don’s symptoms, and reaffirmed the importance of exercise, good nutrition, sleep, activities that engage the brain, and social outlets to both mitigate cognitive issues and manage anxiety.

We’ll see him again in about 6 weeks.

My guess is that the DATscan results will lead to more assessments and tests to get to the root cause of the cognitive and physical/movement issues, which we both know are real if fairly minor and seemingly quite stable at this stage.  In the meantime it is good to know that we are doing the right things to manage them, and to know that we are in the hands of a thoughtful and caring doctor.

It is also good to know that we are on the right track in terms of diet and exercise, and in our efforts to find more social outlets for Don.  What we need to work on is having him engage in more brain-stimulating activities – hobbies, games, learning new skills.  The neurologist said things that Don already enjoys are best.  When I told him about the Beach Cities Health District’s Memory Club he said that might be helpful, but not to do anything that requires spending money on special activities or equipment.

After the neurologist’s appointment I went with Don to his weekly restorative yoga class – definitely challenging for both brain and body and something I plan to work into my retirement schedule – and then we had lunch together before I went back to work.

All in all a good day, and one that has left us both feeling more optimistic about what at least the near future might hold.