ALZHEIMER’S AND FATHERS’ DAY
it’s always difficult to stumb;e through those first special days and holidays after losing a loved one. Father’s Day can be especially poignant when the day is all about someone now out of your life. I suppose that even after a year it won’t be any easier to celebrate without a touch of melancholy in the air. It’s a natural response following the loss of someone who has played such an important role in so many lives.
A LIFETIME OF TITLES
My husband, like all other human males, began his journey as a baby, a son, a boy, a little brother, a nephew, a youth, a teen, a student,a young man, a sailor, a man, a bachelor, a boyfriend, a steady, a fiance, a groom, a husband, perhaps an uncle along the way, and after a time as a husband, he became a father. That is, in the ideal natural order of things. Hopefully, along the way, he became responsible, respectable, conscientious, loyal, loving, devoted, hard-working, likable and lovable. And that’s all in one breath. I’m sure there are many other titles earned throughout life’s journey here on earth. Hopefully, for a child of God, they are all positive and create, after years of learning, the kind of human being that would please his Heavenly Father.
FROM HIS CHILDREN
The other day I received an email as the week before Fathers’ Day appeared on the calendar. The thought was about her father. “Thinking of dad,” she wrote, “wonderful memories.”
Knowing my two daughters and three sons, I am sure their thoughts this week were also turned to their father and their growing years with him. Just as I thought about him each day and missed him. June was a busy month for Ken. Not only did we celebrate Fathers’ Day, but June is also his birth month.
When he passed on I asked each of our children if they would share some of their thoughts about their dad at his funeral. They all agreed, and I am sure it was a difficult time for them to put a pause on the emotions still raw from his death and speak from their heart about the man I had chosen to be their male parent.
There were memories of childhood, teen years, deserved discipline, camping trips, daddy-daughter dates, and scouting days with Ken as the Scout Master taking the troop, which included his sons, on 50-mile hikes through California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.
THE PATHWAY OF FATHERHOOD
He walked his daughters down the aisle of marriage and gently slapped his sons on the shoulder as they took their journey down the path of matrimony with their chosen wife-to-be. It’s all part of being a dad and part of the family passageway to happiness, which is the goal of man: to have joy.
The one quality that our children were certain about was that he was always there for each of them. Trouble and adversity are part of life’s journey in the experimental course taken by growing and developing humans. We taught them all about right and wrong explaining that they could always choose their own walkway, but they could not choose the consequences. Hopefully, they understood that unchangeable rule. If they were wrong, there was penalty and a lesson learned, but no matter what they did, without a doubt, they knew that their father had their back.
May 29, 2015 – So many great writers are out there. I often find verses to share from Anonymous and the other day I ran across one by Unknown. I commend them for their thoughts, verses and prose often filled with wisdom, good advice and poignancy. See if you don’t agree with the following.
LISTEN WHILE I TELL YOU
Do not ask me to remember
Don’t try to make me understand
Let me rest and know that you are with me
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.
I’m confused beyond your concept
I am sad and sick and lost
All I know is that I need you
To be with me at all cost.
Do not lose your patience with me
Do not scold or curse or cry
I can’t help the way I’m acting
Can’t be different though I try.
Please listen while I tell you
Though my words come out all wrong
Just remember that I need you
For the best of me is gone.
Our loved ones live in another world that we don’t really understand and can hardly imagine, the best we can do is to be patient with them, love them and remember that they can’t help themselves, but we can help them. Often, we are all they have. God bless the caregivers.
May 11, 2015 — Do you remember the singing/dancing California raisins from years ago. In addition to the dance, the crinkled group sang a little ditty about “I heard it on the grapevine.” We know that whatever we hear on the grapevine, in all probability, is gossip or rumor. In today’s world of technology we see it, read it, and even hear it on the internet. Just as on the grapevine the information is often gossip or rumor, and sometimes completely false information.
QUOTES FROM THE MASTERS
“Don’t believe everything you read and only half of what you see.” With a little variation there are several other quotes out there from Ben Franklin, Edgar Allan Poe and others that say just about the same thing. How often should we apply this wisdom to newspapers, radio, TV and in today’s world with vast information at our fingertips: the internet? Too many times we quote the new marvel as though it were the last word of truth. And that, my friends, needs to stop for our own good.
KEN AND ALZHEIMER’S
Of course, when a loved one is stricken with a terminal disease, and once we’ve seen the doctor and picked up the latest in medications, we go immediately to the internet in search of not only additional knowledge/information, but our own magic cure that, we believe, has somehow escaped our doctor’s constant stream of new updates on the world of disease and medicine.
“Incurable” suddenly becomes a word of challenge; something that surely can be overcome with just the right information, and so we go on searching. At the beginning of my husband’s journey into A.D. my grandson sent me a print article about AD and the vast difference of cases in India compared to the epidemic that seems to rage in the United States. While in India the A.D. cases total about 4% of the population. Here in our country the numbers are staggering.
The study group, of course, wondered what they do in India that was so different than what we do here in the U. S. One thing that was noticed: They use a lot of Curry in their cooking. In my desperation I bought my own capsule kit, some curry from the health food store and began giving a few to Ken along with an array of his usual vitamins.
Soon the India researchers decided it wasn’t the curry itself that was of benefit but the turmeric within the curry which is a blend of various spices. I told our doctor that I would be adding turmeric to Ken’s daily doses of meds. He glanced at me with that adult eye roll and I asked, “What can the medical community do for him. The good doctor thoughtfully paused and said, “Nothing.” At the health food store I purchased an ample supply of turmeric. Our doctor had cautioned that if I gave Ken too much he would probably throw it all up. This theory is not so far-fetched after all, and is still included in studies just as virgin cocoanut oil.
SEARCHING FOR HOPE, WITH OTHER MALADIES
About ten years ago my oldest daughter Debbie was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. She, of course, turned to the internet to find all she could about her coming life-time battle. She has always been a natural foods kind of person, so it was prudent that she search for her own magic cure. Debbie tried everything she could find with suggestions about curing diabetes coming at her from every direction. She was striving with every ounce of energy to avoid taking the artificial insulin, but finally she had been convinced to give the insulin a try. She did.
A few weeks back, following her first shot, Debbie’s husband Mark found her unresponsive on the living room floor. They live in Ogden, Utah. Local doctors sent her to the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City where the facilities with a more comprehensive neurological department and neurologists were better prepared to handle an insulin-induced coma. Further MRIs and X-rays found an infection on the frontal lobe of her brain and a pulmonary embolism in her lung. Out of immediate danger she was transferred to a rehab facility and appears to be responding well to continued treatment and therapy.
I can understand her zeal to find another way to help herself. In my own desperation to help my husband I do believe I would have even tried arsenic with a splash of rum, or perhaps, a bit of “Old Lace”suggestions from the famous stageplay, had there been indication of cure – anything to restore Ken to his former self. There is something so final and frightening to be diagnosed with a terminal illness (which fosters denial). Currently, with Alzheimer’s there are just two pharmaceutical drugs on the market for treatment. Furthermore the treatment only delays the ravages that will eventually come to the Alzheimer’s victim.
EVEN EXPERTS CAN MAKE RASH STATEMENTS
We all know about a healthy diet and the importance of eating right, but I did take issue with America’s favorite doctor, Doctor Oz, when he said that if you eat enough broccoli you won’t get Alzheimer’s. Even an expert in medicine can be mistaken. Using our own experience as an example that statement is just not true. That green healthy vegetable has been a staple in our home forever and yet my husband had a severe case of A.D.
With diabetes there is insulin. Perhaps not the very best solution, but it beats nothing. And when all was said and done there was nothing on the internet that would restore Debbie’s pancreas to a working organ.
A GRAIN OF SALT
I believe that both Debbie and I have taken some advice from the old masters and while the internet and other Social Media are both great assets for our use. They should always be used with wisdom, and a grain of salt. “Don’t believe everything you read and only half of what you see. And that applies to the internet as well.
THE WAITING ROOM
May 15, 2015 – Alzheimer’s disease is gone from my house, and while I miss Ken more than my words can say, I don’t miss his Alzheimer’s. I wonder at times if the “golden years” are supposed to be golden., or are they as my friend Frances used to say, the “rusting years.” “Well put,” I would tell her as together we mused about all that can, and often does, go wrong while we pull up a chair, grab a dated magazine and make ourselves comfortable in God’s waiting room.
OR LIFE’S CONVEYOR BELT
That’s how I refer to the “rusty golden years.” Our late-years’ life is like a conveyor belt and much like Lucy and Ethel boxing chocolates in a candy factory. We humans just move along the conveyor belt, faster than we like because we can’t slow it down or make it stop for a rest, to our final destination also in a box.
My intent is not to be morbid or insensitive about death or living our last days or decades. It’s all a part of the cycle of life, and as they tell us when there is a new birth that life for everyone is a temporary place where we, hopefully, spend the better part of a century, but no one gets out of it alive.
THAT FAMILY THING
I am blessed. My family has been there for me through all of those Alzheimer’s years and nursing me along when I was badly hurt in an automobile accident. Recently it was my turn to be there even though I couldn’t be with her physically, daughter Debbie knew I was with her in a spiritual sense.
The call came to Kristina from her father who found his wife unresponsive on the living room floor the Friday before Mothers’ Day. Local doctors sent her to the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Deborah suffers from Type II diabetes. For the past ten years she has convinced herself that using holistic treatments she could avoid insulin. None of us like to take medicines, but her avoiding what was missing from her body only complicated her condition. When she finally began taking the shot, her confused system sent her into a coma. She was awake and talked to me on Mothers’ Day although she doesn’t remember our conversation. Following an MRI her doctors believe there has been no damage to her brain after finding an infection in the frontal lobe. However, she will be spending a week or so in their rehab facility to strengthen her walking and speech skills, both of which seem to be slightly impaired by her experience. Her children have been with her, praying and encouraging their mom that she can overcome this.
Kristina, who is living with me, hopped in her car that first night and drove straight through to be with her mom during this serious turn of her health problems. She took Buddy, the nine-month-old puppy with her. He proved to be a good traveler and a welcome companion. I worried, though, Buddy couldn’t change a tire if that became a need.
WE ALL HAVE ADVERSITY
At times I believe that we are given adversity to remind us of how sweet life is when it isn’t with us. Often we struggle against it, but when things go wrong. and we have no control, then we must remind ourselves that we do have Heavenly help. We have to let go and let God. That’s our part to allow Him to answer all of the prayers and healing blessings. Our prayers continue asking that she may have a full recovery and return to her former self. Like other life-long illnesses where there is only treatment and not a cure, we must accept what is reality and continue on doing the best we can. As a family, we are grateful for our faith and prayers, and the prayers from others to help and see us through these difficulties in life.
REMEMBERING MY MOTHERS
May 20, 2015 – The other day I was shopping when suddenly appeared before me a rack filled with Mothers’ Day cards. Years ago I always stopped to check through the assortment looking for two perfect cards: one for my mother and another for my mother-in-law. It’s been a long time, more than 25 years, since I had reason to buy a card for these special women in my life, but now I have long-since realized that there was no reason for me to browse through the rack. Both mothers have passed on.
The two women were similar: stay-at-home moms who canned fruit during the summer months to be enjoyed throughout the rest of the year, both were devoted to family, both were interested in gardening and took pride in their flowers and a patch of chard, tomatoes, zucchini vines, and a scattering of herbs They were church-goers and were women of faith devoted to God and His son Jesus Christ. They also both died with Alzheimer’s disease.
Both mothers could administer a quick swat to get a youngster’s attention without any worry about warping their offspring believing in a fast act of discipline rather than the disciplines of today’s experts. Both moms were experts in just about anything and everything and could have, no doubt, taught the experts of today a thing or two.
For me that would be my mother’s mother better known as grandma. I still picture her in my mind in a house dress with her hair pulled up and pinned back into a bun, and in all the years she lived she never seemed to change. She stayed on the family farm for as long as she was able, then spent the remainder of her life with any one of her 10 children. Her last few years were spent at our house where my mom cared for her until she died.
Her farm will always be etched in my memory as a place of contentment. I wrote a poem about it at one time. There was the house, of course, with a large lawn in front edged by a mulberry trees and near the house a perfect tree for climbing, sitting and watching the world go by. My uncle taught me how to make a whistle from one of the leaves found on the old cottonwood tree.
My grandmother’s house sat back from the road,
as much as my mind discloses,
And next to the lane,
was a long, long fence filled with fragrant yellow roses.
The summer when my mother and I visited her grandma taught me how to make flower dolls with full billowing skirts and ruffled bonnets using hollyhocks. She also baked bread and the most delicious rolls using her ancient wood burning stove and oven. Testing the oven temperature by waving her hand inside the dark interior she knew exactly when it was hot enough for a successful batch of bread, or cookies, or whatever she was making for the family dinner.
This woman was of pioneer stock, and could milk a cow as efficiently as any man. She beat off rattlesnakes and spiders who threatened her children in their play. She and her husband Joseph were prepared for any calamity.
ALZHEIMER’S THE FAMILY DISEASE?
We who have known cases of AD in the family often wonder which of our parents had inherited the gene from one or both of their parents. Unfortunately, if it was there in previous generations before Grandma or Grandpa, there appears to be no record. However, I would guess it came from Grandpa Joseph because Grandma who became a bit cantankerous as she grew older had no signs of memory loss. It was Grandpa who was a little weird at about 50. In all likelihood he was the gene carrier. But not all family members are subject to getting the disease. It was Mama and two of her brothers who inherited AD.
With my husband Ken, we know that his Alzheimer’s could have come from either parent. But today we won’t dwell on.the sad part of remembering., Only that we had wonderful mothers and today is the day of honoring them. Happy Mothers’ Day to all the mothers out there.
ALZHEIMER’S AND THE SWINDLER
CLOSING A BANK ACCOUNT
May 1, 2015 – In my last post I mentioned the father of one of my young friends, and how he had closed his bank account without anyone in the family knowing what he had done. Furthermore, the money is still nowhere to be found. That’s why it has been assumed that someone swindled it from Dad, and Dad, trusting and friendly, possibly only thought someone was being helpful.
CON JOBS – AS OLD AS THE HILLS
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who are unscrupulous in their dealings with their fellow man or woman. Our loved ones with AD often fall victim to these dishonest predators preying on the child-like innocence of demented older people, their confusion, their forgetfulness and their disease. It really doesn’t take much observation to notice when someone is not fully aware of his or her surroundings, and often the original ploy of the con job can be presented long before the actual swindle. The whole con job can be set up well in advance.
FAMILY TO THE RESCUE
Several years before Ken’s Alzheimer’s the two of us were at our bank doing our usual monthly rent deposits. As we finished our transaction we bumped into another couple that we had known for several years. We walked to the exit together, and talked about banking at the same bank, and how pleased we were with the service. “They won’t let us take out our money,” said Wilma, somewhat exasperated at not being able to make a withdrawal. “We were going to open an account elsewhere and use the money for a good investment,” explained her husband Howard, equally frustrated. Both Ken and I wondered why they were having a problem and suggested they talk with the bank manager. Apparently the couple had mentioned an intended investment they wanted to make to their son, Hank. Being somewhat suspicious Hank talked with the bank manager regarding his concern for his parents. While they could not refuse to give Wilma and Howard their money, had they insisted, they could stall. Another day when Howard and Wilma requested a large withdrawal Hank was called and saved the day by meeting his parents at the bank where his parents finally explained their desired but bogus investment. Hank’s mom and dad were willing to give their money to a perfect stranger who had set up the investment to take place at the couple’s home. Because of Hank’s attentive caring for the welfare of his parent’s the money stayed in the bank. Eventually, the account was changed to require two signatures on any check or withdrawal slip with Hank being one of the signers.
OTHER WAYS TO WARD OFF PREDATORS
Ken’s parents, Rose and Nick, were reluctant to add either Ken’s or Loretta’s name to their bank accounts. I suppose parents like to believe they will always be capable of handling their own affairs. However, both of them were having memory and confusion problems. Even to make a simple deposit I had to search the house for any check that needed to be deposited. (Of course all of this was before direct deposit.) The couple had other issues as well. It was decided by Ken and Loretta, to have a conservatorship obtained for their ill and aging parents. This, of course, is much more involved than having signatures added to accounts, or a POA. The conservatorship is a legal procedure and carefully evaluated by authorities, with the accounts audited by an attorney of the conservators choice. With Rose and Nick representatives from the county came to the house to interview the couple and to check the house for other signs of failing health or cognative loss, and their inability to properly care for themselves. Following the interview and a time period for input from family and other experts, and more evaluation the conservatorship was granted much to the relief of family. Anyone with aging parents needs to be aware of the pitfalls that can cause great financial loss during the later years of their older loved ones.
In an effort to obtain full cooperation from elderly parents, it might be best to begin a discussion early on suggesting a possible family trust with a competent executor, power of attorney for someone in the family or a devoted and trusted friend. It doesn’t hurt to question expenditures remembering always to tread lightly. We want to keep them safe and protect their needed finances. However, in your effort to be of help be careful and don’t offend. You don’t want to get a “Mind your own business” response from them. Anyone with aging parents needs to be aware of the pitfalls that can cause great financial loss during the later years of their older loved ones, especially when we all know there may be a need for some solid financial funds relating to their care needs in the future.
THE ALZHEIMER’S WORLD MARCHES ON
April 24, 2015 – No matter who, Alzheimer’s appears to be
waiting for it’s next victim striking at friends, neighbors and family. As my husbands former caregiver – he passed in October 2014 – it would seem that not a day goes by but I don’t hear of another person entering the Alzheimer’s world, another diagnosed case of AD causing untold grief to another family. This time it’s the father of one of my young friends. Continue reading
April 15, 2015 – As a former caregiver for my husband Ken that thought, “The what-ifs?” often became part pf my thoughts. “Maybe tomorrow or even next week there will be cure for AD” ran through my mind constantly especially when an important item on the evening news announced: “A new advancement for Alzheimer’s disease is being further tested on mice.” Usually, the “news flash” occurred on a slow-news day and was just a rehash of a previous “breakthrough story” one of the “breakthroughs” that really weren’t news worthy at all – just an attention grabber. Such items are always a major disappointment for any caregiver listeners, whose highest hope hangs on to any and all “breakthroughs.”
My heart had always skipped a few beats at the beginning of the announced breakthrough, but hopes were quickly and cruelly dashed in finding that, in actuality, there was nothing new at all. Alzheimer’s, it seemed, was/is a nearly impossible nut to crack. Continue reading
SIGNS OF SPRING
April 5, 2015 – Yes, it is a few days after Easter, but it’s also a good time to remember and reflect. Just as living that first year after losing a loved one, Easter is another holiday,not only to get through, but to reminisce and muse about its beginning more than 2,000 years ago. It’s spring again with all the signs: bulbs sprouting forth with flowers of daffodils, lilies, iris, tulips and trees budding with blossoms or new leaves. A season of new life.
Several years ago, well before Easter, when the family was all together with four generations, the discussion turned to the joyful holiday, bunnies, chicks and baskets piled high with eggs of various origins: pastel-colored eggs recently boiled and decorated for the hunt, chocolate bunnies and candy eggs, and, of course, jellybeans in all the colors from a Crayola box.
The conversation hinted that these fun gifts did not come from the famous, imagined bunny of childhood, but from the older folks in the house. Eight-year-old Haley in a disappointed question followed the proverbial cat out of the bag with, “You mean there aren’t real bunnies who bring the baskets?” The truth was out and her comment was a startling disappointment. “No sweetie. It’s just make-believe.” “Then, Why?” she asked. “You mean there are no little chicks either?”
A LEARNING TIME
“Because, the chicks and bunnies and pretty little birds are a reminder to all of us that spring is here and there is new life all around us.” From that point on it was easy to remind the children about the mission of the Messiah, that same Jesus whom they had been hearing about in Sunday School. All about Jesus, his sacrifice and ultimate Crucifixion on the cross, his being in the tomb for three days and finally his resurrection on that first Easter morning. The fact that he brought with him the promise to all of us that we too could experience life after life: a time when we would be resurrected just as Jesus had been.
A REMINDER ABOUT FAITH
As a woman of faith and a disciple of Christ I am warmed by the Easter message: That I will see my beloved husband, Ken, once again in the hereafter, and that both of us will one day be resurrected: me, without my aches and pains of aging, and Ken without Alzheimer’s. That promise is by far the greatest gift any of us could receive, and it doesn’t come in a cellophane-wrapped Easter basket, but from the Lord himself. May we all appreciate that precious gift and live our lives accordingly.
A NEW EXPERIENCE
March 27, 2015 – I noticed a post on Facebook a while back written by a young friend. In it she told of quitting her job because she was going to be caring for her grandfather whom she dearly loved. Of course, grandma too was in the mix, but it was Papa whose health was failing from a cancer he had been living with for some time. She was joyful as she approached a new path in her early journey into life. She loved her grandparents and looked forward to this dedicated and probably her last gift of love for them.
I posted a note back to her expressing my admiration for the altruistic choice she was making, but at the same time I told her that it would be the most difficult job she would ever have.
She answered saying that she was aware of the demands of her commitment, and that for her she was happy to be of service to this loving man and her grandma whose health was good. While Papa still had all of his faculties I was certain that unless something drastic occurred to change the personality of this dear man, the battle of emotions would be easier for her than if he had Alzheimer’s or some other mind-robbing dementia disease.
CANCER AND ALZHEIMER’S
Whatever the disease if it’s a sentence to death it will be heart-wrenching to the family. The big difference between cancer and dementia diseases is that with cancer the patient is still in touch with his or her loved ones. There is communication and reason, more often than not, particularly in the last stages of Alzheimer’s the victim is often without communication with family. Or his/her sentences are broken or garbled. The victim’s understanding is often so dimmed he/she doesn’t know what’s going on in the room around him.
VERBAL AND PHYSICAL ABUSE
That lack of understanding, communication and reason often puts the caregiver in a precarious position where insult and injury may be part of the day’s events.
For a time when I was recuperating from major injuries from an auto accident and unable to help the male caregiver the family had hired with my husband. Fortunately, my granddaughter, who had been staying with us,took my place helping to get Ken up and ready for the day. There were many times when Kristina went off to her room crying a little or a lot after her grandfather had managed to punch or slap her. At that point in his illness he was beyond knowing that he was not well.
When I was able to return as helper there were numerous days when I too wanted to go to my room and cry because of being injured by this man whom I have lived with and loved most of my adult life. I have suffered attempted bites, been pushed, shoved, slapped, punched, clawed, kicked, cursed at, and spit upon. My male caregivers have experienced the same. It’s not only physically exhausting, but emotionally draining.
You cry into the pillows and in the shower and strive not to break down for the patient to see. He or she has their own inner turmoil with which to cope. Yet the caregiver usually survives, but not without some bruises both physical and emotional
THE END IS OFTEN CLOSER THAN WE THINK
My young friend’s precious Papa lived only a few months under her devoted care until he passed on from the natural causes of cancer, as did Ken last October from natural causes complicated by Alzheimer’s.
I am certain that my young friend and I have grown from our individual experiences. So what’s it like to be a caregiver? I will always carry with me the same definition. “It’s the most difficult job in the entire world.”