I don't usually talk about personal stuff especially not about problems. I did talk a bit about my mother and her (our) struggle with Alzheimer's
last May. I guess we're due an update.
Mom is still able to live with her cats. She can do so safely but we've also taken steps to eliminate opportunities for her to make errors with things like the stove/oven. I see her every day for several hours. While we could have moved her in with us or vice-versa, we haven't because of her cats of which she has seven (7). I promised her, when she had been diagnosed and knew what would happen, that I would keep her with her cats so that her cats would be safe for just as long as possible. Cats, as cat people know, are almost impossible to place in adoptive homes. All Mom's cats are already rescues, some have gotten the reprieve twice over and we think the youngest is about 7 years old while the oldest is close to 11.
She still takes Aricept and has for about 2 years. I believe that this has slowed the progression of the disease such that she is still able to be as independent (with care) as she is. Looking back, I think she's been living with the effects of the disease for about 4 years. Based on what I've read, she's doing pretty well.
We are a bit stressed by her care. It is a ½-hour drive, one way, to her house and we make that commute every day in addition to work, etc. and then spend time with her. We have her over for dinner 2-3 times a week. This is one thing she remembers (vaguely) and expects everytime we come in the house. Because of this stress we've brought in some "hired help" for two days a week. Mom loves to see the new faces(everyone is, at the same time, both a new and a familiar face) and talk. Mom doesn't get many visitors. That's another problem but a little background first.
Many sufferers from this disease start by losing inhibitions and/or forgetting the finer points of social behavior. Some cuss like a "sailor" and Mom is one. At least I know the limits of her vocabulary and it is
fairly limited. Still, this offends some people. The afflicted also get pretty frustrated, you would too if you suddenly couldn't remember things you should remember and start misplacing things, showing up for appointments at the wrong time, place, and/or date. It is embarassing. Combine this with lowered inhibitions and sometimes there's an outburst which is considered very inappropriate by bystanders. Mom did this and nobody understood. Some took it personally, some were intimidated and some merely felt uncomfortable but all took to avoiding her.
It put off her "friends". They quit "coming by" for a visit and/or calling (they couldn't have a good conversation anyway). So now she was isolated. I should say, though, that there are about 6 people who have gone out of the way to try to include her in their visit plans. Also, there are a couple of fine young men (well, younger than me!) nearby who keep an eye on the place and do things like ensure there is access to the house when it snows. That is a wonderful thing.
I might also mention that the friends didn't call and tell us until AFTER we'd begun to address the problem. Because Mom would forget (or wouldn't tell if she did remember) they thought we were doing nothing.
It is quite a disease. Everything that she does or fails to do can be traced to her deteriorating memory. At first she forgot names, vocabularly, then numbers and how to do math, what was usable. Because she can't remember she can't reason in the same way as she did.
Mom can't problem solve because she can't remember all the variables that affect a problem. E.g. the light won't come on and she can't fix it. Was it the wall switch turned off, the bulb burned out, the lamp unplugged, she can't say. As far as she's concerned it might be the shade... She pulls out the clothes she thinks she might need and hangs them around the room so that she can SEE what she has because she can't remember what she has or where she put it. She puts stuff in front of the basement door because she's convinced that the cats can unlock it and get out. The intent is to put an obstacle in front of the door so it can't be opened. One day it was her clothing, a blouse & a pair of pants. She's decided she doesn't like what was once her favorite pair of shoes because they have "heavy" lugged soles. She swears they aren't hers. She can't remember her other son (who's deceased) and didn't recognize her daughter when she visited.
My sister told me, when she visited at Thanksgiving, that she was afraid she'd end up like this. Mom's mother had it. Apparently, Grandma's mother and grandmother had some form of dementia. I'm kinda worried about it myself. It does seem to be genetic. We're hoping that researchers will find a cure but, as good as they are, we aren't deluding ourselves.
This has impacted our lives. We are fortunate that I'm retired and have the time to give to Mom. The timing of this, bad as it is, couldn't be better for Mom. If I was working full-time I'd have had to take other steps, such as having "hired help" or moving her to a facility much sooner. Again, I think we're lucky and we're not the only ones to be going through this.
Not by a longshot are we the only people experiencing this debilitating disease.
- The Alzheimer's Association
- National Institute on Aging Fact Sheet
- Alzheimer's Foundation
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke