Following Rolf’s mild cognitive impairment diagnosis, Rolf, 83, and Linda, 78, participated in the program last December along with several other couples. They still religiously use the calendaring skills they learned from clinical and health psychology intern Janna Belser-Ehrlich. Rolf and Linda each maintain a calendar, which they review together every morning. The calendar is designed to not just list daily events, such as doctor’s appointments and dinner dates with friends. It also includes an area to record action items — “Things to be done today” — and important pieces of information collected throughout the day — “Things I want to remember.” Before, Linda said, Rolf might get off a phone call and Linda would ask him what was discussed. “I don’t remember,” was often the reply. With the calendar in front of him, Rolf jots down conversation notes. Now, his memory issues feel more manageable.
“This doesn’t mean I don’t forget things, because obviously I do, but if I write it down I have a way to refer to it and it keeps me on track,” he said.
Rolf and Linda agree that one of the most positive outcomes has been the effect on their relationship. They both have a better understanding of what each other is going through and have learned coping skills and tips for positive interactions from Belser-Ehrlich. Linda admits that in the past it was hard not to give a “snarky” response when Rolf asked her a question he may have asked 10 minutes before.
“I am learning to be patient,” she said. “I won’t say that every day is bliss because he still can get frustrated and I still sometimes get snarky, but we’re just worlds better. I said to Dr. Smith when we left the program: ‘This is life-changing for us.’”
Rolf and Linda went on their first cruise in February with other Oak Hammock residents, a trip made less stressful because of skills they learned, and they are hooked on the cruise experience. The year 2019 marks their 60th wedding anniversary, Rolf’s 85th birthday and Linda’s 80th birthday, a perfect reason to make a trip with their daughters to Rolf’s ancestral home.
“I have only one thing on my bucket list and that’s cruising the fjords of Norway,” Rolf said.