Friday, September 5, 2014

Contemplating the Coming Age of Alzheimer's

Image from source, New Republic
My family has been relatively free of dementia. I think our tickers get us before dementia can. The only relative I'm aware of who had the disorder was my Dad's mother, my favorite Grandmother. She was the pie-baking, pancake-making, cuddly, loveable grandma.  She was one of the sweetest people I've ever known, and everyone loved her.

The last time I spent the night at her house was as an adult, with my near-in-age cousin, Becky. She had lost her husband of over 50 years, and her oldest child within a month or so. And on this visit, it was clear that there was something wrong with Grandma. Actually, there had been for some time, but all inquiries were brushed off by closer family members as her being hard of hearing, of having experienced such loss. It was just age, confusion, and the hearing thing. But it wasn't. It clearly wasn't.

I moved 2,000 miles away a short time later, and not long after that, Grandma was put into a home. Her issue wasn't Alzheimer's, or at least I don't think so. While she did lose her connection to the present, and her ability to remember who anyone was, her personality was intact. Her idioms were the same. And I swear, there was a brief flash of recognition when I and my long-divorced parents walked in to visit her. It didn't last, and she spent the rest of the visit trying to set the two of them up together, but the sadness I felt for her plight was buffeted a little by her seemingly sunny disposition. She didn't seem bothered by her confusion. Which is something.

Unfortunately, that was my one and only visit to see her in the home. I could throw out a bunch of excuses, and my distance away, but the fact is, I was scared. I didn't want to see her that way. And the built-in distance on that side of the family due to divorce just made it that much easier to rationalize. Grandma's remaining sons, my dad and my uncle, plus all of her in-town grandkids could take up the slack.  It was rather cowardly of me, and I do regret it. And yet, I still make the rationalization that she wouldn't have remembered anyway. Small solace.

All of that is a rather long way to go, to tell you that I read the article below, and was very moved by it. And I'm known as being almost completely unsentimental. The issue of dementia and Alzheimers is due to become much more pronounced over the coming years and decades. Maybe you (and maybe even I) can do a little better dealing with it than I have.

We Are Entering the Age of Alzheimer's

Try as we do, us Americans still croak. One and all, somehow, even today. We are done in by ten likely suspects: heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes. Nephritis. Suicide. Yet we can and do fight these things. We have working cures, preventive regimens, ways to halt the damage for all of these commonest causes of death. All of them, that is, save one. Alzheimer’s disease is practically unheard of in adults younger than 40. . .
Read more at: New Republic

1 comment:

  1. Alzheimer's is such a nasty disease. My dad died a couple of years ago and he was in a nursing home for a couple years and needed help a few years before that.
    I worked in nursing homes, with a lot of dementia and Alzheimer's patients. What's sad is that not only do they lose their mind, they also lose their family. Once a person is in the home, the family generally stops caring, which is very sad.
    But a lot families don't know how to react when a loved one gets dementia/Alzheimer's and they put the patient in the home. Many think the home will take care of them and that is their family now.
    As far as Alzheimer's/dementia at age 40 younger, I think it is out there, we just classify it as mental illness, drugs, booze, etc.
    It's sad to read patient's histories and see the patients were once principals at schools, scientists, rich people, people with a great deal of education, politicians (like Ronald Reagan).
    But there is little research into dementia/Alzheimer's compared to other medical problems like cancer, AIDS, MD and others and I don't know if this is right or not.
    But when I was working at a nursing home, someone wise said that the patients, who were mothers and fathers, changed their children's diapers when the kids were young and now the children now have to change their parent's diapers. The Circle of Life.


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