We frequently hear about some promising new potential drug breakthrough, yet there is at this time no medical cure and it’s not likely that there will be one anytime soon. Thus, the interest in exercise, diet, vitamin and herbal remedies and brain challenges.
... More likely, at least in the case of Alzheimer's disease, the home this elder misses is a childhood home. It's the home where he or she felt the comfort of a mother's arms; the safety of a father's protection. Again, this home is a state of mind rather than a building. Even if we could take our loved one to the actual house of his or her childhood, it's not likely that this structure would bring comfort. A sense of comfort comes from being with other human beings who love us and will do what they can to care for us.
Could life experience make up for some of the effects of age on the brain? According to researchers from the School of Business Administration at the University of California, Riverside, it can and does. The research group measured a person's decision making ability over their entire lifespan. Using two difference types of intelligence - fluid and crystallized – they found that experience and acquired knowledge from a lifetime of decision-making often offset the declining ability to learn new information.
Finding activities for people with dementia can be challenging. For example, my dad’s dementia was caused by failed surgery during his 70s. He was always interested in archaeology, science of any type, space exploration and a variety of human cultures. I focused his activities on those things he loved. The music of his youth was another priceless tool to help him get through the days. What activities or topic of interest would work for your loved one?
In honor of National Alzheimer's Month and National Memory Screening Week I'm posting this wonderful essay by Jean Lee. Keep reading to tap into five books that offer to you the experiences of dedicated Alzheimer's caregivers - Carol
By Jean Lee, Alzheimer's Daughter
On my next birthday I’ll be 61 years old. Both of my parents died of Alzheimer’s. I wrote about my journey as their caregiver in Alzheimer’s Daughter. Does the thought that I might become afflicted with the disease haunt me? Yes. It niggles in the back of my mind.
I’m lucky to live in a small town and still doctor with a Marcus Welby, M.D.-type family physician. This man has treated four generations of my family; my parents, myself, my children, my grandchildren. Needless to say he knows us well.
After Mom and Dad died, I asked my trusted doctor about my risk. He answered since my parents had not been diagnosed until they were in their mid-eighties it was not really a part of my family history. He reasoned if everyone had parents who lived into their eighties, nearly everyone would have a history. This reassured me, but still the thought persists, especially when I can’t think of a word I want to use, or lose my train of thought in a conversation.
November 1-7, 2015 is National Memory Screening Week, bringing awareness to the positive aspects of screening and attempting to remove stigma. When I visit my doctor for my yearly physical, my blood pressure is noted, I’m prompted to have a mammogram, vials of blood are drawn, I’m questioned about diet, exercise and assessed for depression. All of these are types of screening. Why not routinely offer a Mini Mental to patients at age 60-65 to collect some baseline data? Comparisons could then be made as we age?
I know, health care costs are already prohibitive and many people are afraid to know. As for me, I’d appreciate the baseline data. In the meantime I keep exercising, taking my fish oil and eating handfuls of spinach and kale.
If Alzheimer’s has touched your life, and you seek connection with others who have shared this journey, below are five books written from five perspectives about the disease.
All of us felt compelled to write our books, hoping to make a difference…hoping that we might make the pathway of others traveling this road a little less painful and lonely. Perhaps you will find comfort and support within our pages.
Vicki details the daily challenges, turbulent emotions, and painful decisions involved in caring for her parents. Laced with humor and pathos, reviewers describe her book as “brave,” “honest,” “raw,” “unvarnished,” as well as a “must-read for every Alzheimer's/dementia patient's family.” Vicki wrote this story to offer hope to others, to reassure them that they’re not alone.
Blue Hydrangeas by Marianne Sciucco
Marianne describes herself as a writer who happens to be a nurse. This work of fiction is based upon her care for the elderly. It's a tenderly told love story about Jack and Sara, owners of a New England bed and breakfast. Sara is stricken with Alzheimer's and Jack becomes her caregiver.
What Flowers Remember by Shannon Wiersbitzky
Shannon writes this work of fiction through the eyes of a small-town preteen girl, Delia, whose elderly neighbor, Old Red Clancy is failing mentally. The aged gentleman has to be placed in a care facility, but Delia will not let him wither away. She devises a way for the whole community to remind Old Red how important he has been in all of their lives.
On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s by Greg O’Brien
Diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, Greg O’Brien’s story isn’t about losing someone else to Alzheimer’s, it is about losing himself a sliver at a time while still fighting to live with Alzheimer's, not die with it.
Alzheimer's Daughter by Jean Lee
My memoir details my journey caring for both parents who were diagnosed on the same day. It is written with wincing honesty about the cruel affects of the disease, but a WWII love story held together by faith and family is contained within the pages.
Dear Carol: My husband and I hate northern winters and vowed to move south when we retired. Anywhere warm. Now, with retirement near, my husband has developed younger onset Alzheimer’s disease. He’s still in an early stage so we are unsure about whether it’s best to stay where we are or to go ahead with our plans. If we move, should we move now or wait? We hate to scrap our dream but we don’t want to make things worse for him. What do you think? - Amy
Exhausted caregivers often say that one of the hardest things for them is that they can’t get quality sleep. Even caregivers who have loved ones outside of their homes can have problems since they are still on call day and night for frequent emergencies. However, it’s the Alzheimer’s caregivers who have the hardest time since Alzheimer’s disease can cause severe sleep disruption.
Dear Carol: My mother has been in a nursing home for two years because of strokes and vascular dementia combined with Alzheimer’s. It’s obvious that she’ll never go home. Dad died years ago, but Mom stayed in the family home where we kids grew up. While my siblings and I know that this house must be sold to pay for the nursing home, Mom talks about the house and going back to it. Do we tell her that we have to sell it or do we just pretend that it’s still hers? I hate being dishonest with her, but I know that she’ll be talking about the house and she’ll be terribly upset if we tell her we’re selling it. How do we handle this? - Dave
Increasingly, Alzheimer’s specialists and researchers stress the importance of early detection. In fact, most drugs now considered as possible methods for holding off Alzheimer’s symptoms seem to be dependent on starting the drug early – as much as a decade earlier than symptoms appear. The question that travels hand in hand with these studies is who should start these drugs if they do prove to be effective? It’s not prudent to simply give the drugs to the whole aging population.
Middle aged and worried about your memory slips? You probably don't have dementia. The majority of the memory slips that concern this age group, and even those significantly older, are due to stress and other factors rather than impending dementia. However, researchers have now found that people who are suffering from memory loss but are unaware of their problem are most likely developing the disease.