Coloring Steadies Shaking Hands

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Donald Thrush’s hands don’t stop shaking from the Parkinson’s disease he was diagnosed with in 1997. He’s now in stage 4. But, as he scoots up to a tray table, a crayon in his hand, his shaking slows. Eventually his hands don’t shake at all, as he methodically colors.

It all started five or six years ago when one of their 13 grandchildren had left behind a coloring book. Donald’s wife, Berna, colored as the couple watched TV. Donald asked her to hand him the book. She passed him the book and crayons and was amazed at what he could do. He soon advanced to adult coloring books with intricate details.

It’s the only thing that controls the shakiness. Donald also suffers from Alzheimer’s and high blood pressure. He has a pacemaker, and he relies on a home health aide to help him dress, bathe and perform other daily tasks.

“Somehow this helps him focus his mind,” said Tracy Risk, the aide who helps the Thrushes five days a week. The service is among several provided by CICOA.

Berna had been taking care of her husband of 55 years, but as his health declined, he began falling, and she no longer could lift him. She remembers one Sunday while she was at church, Donald fell while tending their little flower garden. He laid on the cold ground nearly three hours. His doctor suggested they contact CICOA.

“CICOA makes sure we have what we need,” Berna said. And, it allows them to stay in their apartment, where they’ve lived 12 years.

The Thrushes once owned a carpet laying business in Toledo, Ohio, where they reared their three children. After retiring, they moved to Indianapolis – Berna’s hometown – in 1989, to be closer to her family.

“It’s hard to watch him struggle,” she says. “But he’s a proud man, who is determined to be as independent as he can. Coloring gives him something he can achieve.”

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