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The planes are getting bigger and i am learning more, both of which seem to be helping the fight against Alzheimer's.
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I’m Winning on Weekends

The rest of the week I try to get ready

By Tom Hintz

Posted – 12-16-2014

The best news I have is that at my last appointment the neurologist told me to fly all I can because it seems to be working better than anything else. We tried adding a new medication to the Aricept that I have been taking for a few years now but taking it meant never being far from a bathroom. That just isn’t worth something we don’t know will work in the first place so at this point I’ll take my chances without it. Aricept itself is no picnic but I can deal with it.

Day to day I know things are changing. Paying for something with cash was drawing strange looks or questions from the person taking the money because I apparently was giving them bills until they said it was enough. A woman that I frequently see at the register of a grocery store asked me if I was OK as she started giving me half of the cash back. Obviously not. Thankfully I can get through most weeks with debit cards.

The little frustrating things seem to happen more frequently. I can be in the shop to do something but get to the bench and have to look around for clues to what I wanted to do. I often make several trips to the tool box before I remember which wrench I needed. I can go right back to the plane or whatever I am working on, remember what wrench I wanted and then forget again at the tool box. Those little problems make me wonder how many I am not recognizing or remembering.

When I am at the flying field I have developed a routine for putting my planes together and then checking them over to try and avoid forgetting something. That doesn’t always work either like when I took off with one of the ailerons unplugged. I realized it as soon as I took off and years of experience helped me figure out how to fly it to get it back on the ground safely.

I feel my best when I am at the flying field and even better when I am actually flying. The concentration that requires is what the neurologist likes and it really does seem to clear my head. I have never felt like I was forgetting something while I am flying and that is a good feeling that I wish I could get more often.

My Pitts Python wings are 70"-long (each) and it is a handful in the air but it is gorgeous to see and gets my brain working overtime which I need desperately.
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I am flying bigger, more capable planes now in part because I gave up helicopters. I just could not trust myself with the added dimensions of the helicopters even though I was making progress at a rate that seemed to impress other helicopter pilots. I decided that I needed to get away from them while I was recognizing the potential for problems even though I was not experiencing them yet.

The planes I fly now are larger and can do more things in the air so I can keep challenging myself. Learning new maneuvers forces me to concentrate at a higher level to get all of the stick movements needed figured out. I do think that it takes me longer to get something new mastered than it used to. Certainly that has to be due to my brain refusing to capture some parts of the control sequence or how much of a given control input to give when. But I am figuring it out with repetition and that’s OK because the process makes me feel good. And, I can learn these things higher up to start with, something we call “two mistakes high.” Alzheimer’s or not that is a good plan.

I recently started flying a huge bi-plane, a Pitts Python that brings more challenges in terms of what it takes to fly it. I am pacing myself in how hard I fly it and was careful to practice landings early but it is a fun plane to fly that exercises my brain a little more. (It’s also gorgeous in the air)

So overall, yes there are more memory/thinking related issues than there were before. I know that I am not going to get better but I do feel like I am slowing the progress, apparently more than my neurologist thought or expected. I know the changes can frustrate my wife and they certainly frustrate me. I would much rather look forward to what I can do to keep myself sharper as well as make it easier for me to do the things that are helping the most. Every weekday I look forward to the two weekend days that I can spend at the field working on my brain.

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