EATING, ALWAYS A PLEASURE
September 29, 2014 – Eating has always been one of Ken’s delights. He was one of those men who could put on 30 lbs., have butter-ball cheeks, and then, within his designated period of time, easily take the weight off. When we met he weighed under 170 lbs., which put him on the skinny side. He was working at the Santa Fe train depot as a telegrapher and hadn’t learned how to budget his money very well. Being paid only once a month, he and his roommate lived the last week or so near the end of the month on not much more than oatmeal three times a day. Boring as his diet had been he still appreciates a bowl of hot-cooked oatmeal.
A CRAZE BRINGS ATTENTION TO THE DEMENTIA UMBRELLA
September 12, 2014 — One of the latest ways to bring attention to a disease is the Ice Bucket Challenge. People either give a monetary donation, have ice cold water with ice cubes dumped on them, or do both. The recipient of this gesture being research, for ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, nick-named after a well-known ball player of yesteryear. The challenge, especially when done by celebrities, is meant to brings attention to this life-destroying diseases. Amyotophic Lateral Sclerosis attacks the nervous system, then the brain of its victims and is always terminal. Like Alzheimer’s, ALS is one of many numerous diseases classified under the dementia umbrella.
THEY ALL NEED A CURE
Those in our family who took the Ice Bucket Challenge dedicated their donation to Alzheimer’s remembering their grandfather, my husband Ken. There was no paparazzi standing by when great grandson Joaquin and his friend Gavin, both of Brentwood were dumped with a bucket of ice-cold water. Gavin, by the way made his donation to fight breast cancer. There were no photos in “People” magazine, and no frenzied fans shouting their adoration. Their unselfish contribution was done not because supporting and donating to Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer is better than donating to ALS, but because all of these horrible illnesses need the attention and the research to find answers: how and why they attack the brain or body, what causes these diseases and how can they get cured?
Presently, questions about those brain destroying diseases have little or no answers, but the question that was brought to the attention of readers of the article about the “Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS Attention” from one victim’s wife was, “What good is this doing other than bringing more attention to celebrities who hardly need any more publicity. “Wouldn’t it be better,” she asked, “if they simply and quietly donated the sum of money instead of using one of these painful death sentences as a photo op.” I agree, to a point, but for me there can’t be too much attention brought to any of these fatal ailments where the final goal would be a return to good health and saving the life of a loved one. She went on to explain how it felt as the wife of an of ALS Victim.
LIVING WITH THE VICTIM
While I can agree and understand her feelings and frustration I am one, as I am certain she is also, who would like to find answers and cures. If I believed that pushing a peanut down Main Street with my nose would aid in finding a cure I would be willing to give it my best shot. I have been that way since the beginning of Ken’s illness. I’ve tried anything and just about everything including garlic, ginger, double helpings of broccoli, coconut oil, curry, then turmeric and even a “happy” cookie from a hippie-type relative. If I thought for even a minute that a good serving of bat guano would help my husband return to the man he was, or break through the mystery maze of brain disease, I would stir up an ample helping, add butter. a little salt and hold out a spoon coaxing, “Open wide.”
I’ve noticed that even suggestions for holistic treatments are beginning to grow dim as the years of study, research and experiments on lab rats is slowing. There was a post where I read that because of the lack of any real marked successes, some researchers were concluding that Alzheimer’s disease was without treatment or cure. My heart aches for the generations to come and the fear and dread that comes to children of victims anticipating the possibilities of an unknown future.
Every caregiver suffers as well as the victim. It doesn’t matter who the loved one is: mother, father, sister, in-laws, aunts, uncles. children or husbands/wives. However, the caregiving spouse, including me, is in a never-ending state of mourning. Depression and the constant feeling of foreboding and lonesomeness, all fought valiantly with every waking fiber within me. These feelings follow me around like a black cloud reminding me constantly that the man who sleeps in a hospital bed in our family room is dying. Whether it will take another year, another five or longer, he is still slowly dying.
My feelings of lonesomeness aren’t because there are no friends or family nearby. My home almost rumbles with people. I miss sharing with my husband. I miss the companionship: with him not being available to hear my complaints or good news. I miss going to movies with him, s lunch or dinner sate, even shopping gets lonely. I miss him next to me in our king-size bed. But I do believe that what I miss most are the hugs and kisses – especially the bear hugs and the joy that comes from loving this man.
Sorrow is masked with cheery hellos, forced smiles and an “I’m fine attitude.” There’s no sense in spreading the doom and gloom to others. People have their own worries and problems. The caregiving spouse must gird up his/her loins and go on mainly because there isn’t any other place to go except “on.” We just need to keep in touch and bolster up one another (Cheers for social media and support groups.)
The Ice Bucket Challenge has brought attention and money for ALS, but the greatest challenge for all those who find themselves directly involved with any of the other diseases under the dementia umbrella, is maintaining a positive attitude and greeting each day in a salute to life. Once in a while Ken manages to say something that makes sense no matter how unwittingly. Today he said with absolute clarity, “It just isn’t fair.”All of the victims and caregivers within earshout will totally agree.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BRAIN DAMAGE AND BRAIN DISEASE
September 6, 2014 – Brain damage occurs from trauma or injury to the brain. A person with Alzheimer’s has a diseased brain. Some may not understand the difference, but the differnece is huge. With the bodies remarkable healing qualities an injured brain can, at times, relearn information in another area. In the Alzheimer’s diseased brain, that is never the case.
RELEARNING BRINGS HOPE FOR BRAIN DAMAGE
Hit by a car when he was young, the son of one of my friends received numerous injuries including a concussion and major trauma to his head. From an X-ray the doctors pointed out to the worried parents that there appeared to be a small area in the boy’s brain which was badly damaged and would probably not function again. Reassurance came quickly when the neurologists explained how remarkable the brain is. If some of the information the 4-year-old had learned was lost, he could relearn it with another part of his brain. He is now a very successful, adult, his childhood accident, leaving no apparent long term effects. Continue reading
This gallery contains 1 photo.
PARENTAL CAREGIVING, THAT’S NOT ALZHEIMER’S
August 29, 2014 – Though caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is difficult, parental caregiving has got to be even tougher. What if caregiving started at birth and lasted until the length of that child’s life?As a caregiving spouse, I do believe it is the most exhausting, painful, devoted, heartfelt, involved, dedicated and most difficult job (calling) in the entire world. As a caregiver I also know of those moments of joy that are a part of caring for a person with either a physical, emotional or mental disability. What kind of people lovingly take on that responsibilty, knowing that when they are finished, it is because their child has probably left this earthly life?
WE NEVER KNOW WHAT OTHERS ARE GOING THROUGH
My experience by comparison to some others is very limited. Caring for Ken’s parents, my mother and now Ken has put me through the wringer of life for a good portion of my many years. However, I have never experienced caring for a disabled child who has lived a lifetime locked in a crippled body, born with a severe case of cerebral palsy. I’ll call him Mike. He would have liked that. It made him one of the guys even though he had matured and grown in age to an adult male of 50.
Family members have been his caregivers. Watched over by siblings, but cared for by Mom and Dad. I’ll leave it at that – no names: just Mom and Dad.
SPECIAL GRANDCHILDREN FOR SPECIAL PEOPLE
I became aware of Mike through my grandchildren. In our area there is a program sponsored by our local recreation department where activities, games and outings are provided for adults with disabilities. For nearly 40 years these grandchildren have been involved with the program as teachers, assistants, clean-up crews, crafters and hands-on caregivers. The older grandchildren started as a summer job, bringing their siblings to work as volunteers. After gaining experience, when they turned 16, they were hired as employees to do what they had been doing. For many it turned into a regular job even after the summer season had ended. Remembering when it all began with grandson Michael, then Sean, Alan, Liz, Katie and now Kristina I was pleased with these grandchildren’s generous hearts and willingness in providing compassionate service. They all knew Mike who responded to all of these caring young people with a big smile and bright eyes: his tools for communication. He was never able to develop skills involving speech, so all of his talks with friends were done through emotions which could be read on his face.
DR. SEAN IS HERE TO HELP
Sean had a special way with Mike, being able to tease him with humor and gestures. Mike teased back with smiles and laughs. Sean continued his education and is now a practicing chiropractor.
Mike’s dad, realized because of Mike’s condition there were many times when he would become rigid and uncomfortable. That’s when Dad asked Dr. Sean if he would adjust Mike to bring him some comfort and relief. Whether it was an office visit or in Mike’s own home where Dr. Sean also adjusted Dad whose back was beginning to show the years of wear and tear from constantly lifting his son; Mike and Dad always felt better.
CAREGIVING IS A CALLING
One of Ken’s caregivers, Crizaldo, claims that “Caregiving is a calling.” I have always agreed with this. Mike, who passed on last week from natural causes, had two special caregivers, Mom and Dad, who were, indeed, called to care for him. Together they have provided him with bounteous love, patience. understanding and unconditional devotion. Hats off to Mike’s Mom and Dad.
May all caregivers be as loving and dedicated.
For more information go to: http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/disabled-adult-child-can-mean-uncertain-future-parents-f8C11379333
DEMENTIA – A STARTING POINT
August 24, 2014 – What is dementia and how does it relate to Alzheimer’s? Years ago they said that he/she is getting senile, or he/she is entering into their second childhood. If a loved one became cross or cantankerous one might say, “He/she is having a moment of senile agitation.” Then an observer could quickly cut to the chase with “He/she is downright crazy.”
Over the years descriptive words and terms do change. It wasn’t political correctness that brought about the change from yesteryear, it was a more conclusive definition that brought the word dementia into use as the more descriptive and popular term to describe loss of cognitive reasoning. The explanation from one dictionary is “a condition of deteriorated mentality.” Continue reading
A QUESTION OF FORGIVING
August 17, 2014 – Where is my help? Where is my family when I need them? Where are my friends in my hours of want and and where is that soft shoulder to cry on?Why should I be forgiving when I ask these questions without an answer?
Most were there in the beginning. Whether the disease is Alzheimer’s, Cancer or any other life threatening illness there appears to be lots of verbal support when the dire announcement is first acknowledged and then made public to any and all concerned. “My father, mother, sister, brother, wife, husband or child has such and such disease.
Almost universally the response is, “What can I do to help.” It is sincere and from the heart in most cases. I say that because there will be some in your address book of friends and family whose thoughts are more like, “How can I escape from this sad news?” “I just can’t deal with it.” “I don’t want to hear any more about Alzheimer’s.” Continue reading
This gallery contains 1 photo.
START WITH HELP FROM ABOVE
August 8, 2014 — The most important of all Alzheimer’s tips, and it sounds like a tall order: trying to make life pleasant for all involved in the world of Alzheimer’s. An impossible task one might say, but that’s the goal. For me, being a woman of faith, that’s where I begin: with faith. After you’ve talked with doctors, family, friends and any professionals who are experts in the field of dementia, there is still one more support system. For me it’s my Father in Heaven. For those who might not feel comfortable approaching Deity, then do as they do at AA meetings. Turn your thoughts, attention and gratitude to a higher power, and most importantly make the Serenity prayer a part of your day. You know the one: “Grant me the power to accept those things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Trying to capture the attention of a person with dementia in an effort to make them understand your thinking is about as reasonable as trying to explain algebra to a one-year-old. I’m not talking about patients who have been recently diagnosed with any form of dementia. I’m referring to one who has had the disease and have become lost in a confusing world of deep forgetting. When you correct them it can, and often does, start an argument. This is your opportunity to switch your conversation to something else: change the subject.
Don’t add to the confusion they already feel by asking, “Don’t you remember when we visited our friends in Oregon?” I am certain that deep in the heart of AD patients they would love to remember the trip. For them, though, the memory and the friends are totally gone. Nagging them to remember only brings out frustration and adds to the anger they might be feeling.
We know from our own experiences about body language and facial expressions. Little things tell a lot. I notice Ken’s expression most when he is eating. At one time he would say, “This is really good,” or something else to let me know that he liked my cooking. Now I can see it in his eyes or how he crinkles his nose and moves his mouth that he likes what he’s eating. Not liking the food is even more obvious. He knows how to spit it out.
REFUSAL AND ANGER
There have been times when Ken has shoved his tray away or deliberately dislodged it from the caregiver’s hands and sent the food flying through space. For whatever reason, they can’t help what happened. Possibly they don’t even know why they did what they did. So collect yourself, count to 10, 20 or even 100, immediately forgive your Alzheimer’s patient and start all over again. Wait for a time and offer again, but slowly. Remember the key word: patience.
A WAITING GAME
Once when Ken had dismissed me as his wife at bedtime and told me get out of his house I was devastated even though I knew that Alzheimer’s was the culprit. I even sat and cried with him at midnight because his wife was out there alone and he was worried to the point of being ill.
Eventually, to help bring her home in his troubled mind, and with a coat over my night clothes I exited the house through the back door and entered through the front door while calling his name. That time (2:00a.m.) he accepted me as his wife, scolded me for being gone for such a long time and said. “You’re home and safe. Let’s go to bed.” So remember when one thing doesn’t work, try a different approach.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Life is complicated for the caregivers, and no doubt it must be very complicated for the Alzheimer’s patient as well. So forget the big brass band and fireworks. Just keep things simple – something with which he/she has been familiar. Party time with noise and crowds is a thing of the past. Quiet and comfortable is now the order of the day.
CLOSE THE DAY WITH DEITY OR YOUR HIGHER POWER
Was it a good day? Was the Alzheimer’s patient as happy as he could be, then be thankful and let the powers that be know of your gratitude. Once gratitude is given, then you might ask for help and guidance with the days to come. Even if it’s a family member or good friend who helped, give them thanks for helping you through the day. These simple Alzheimer’s tips can make the difference between feeling on top of things or giving into the stress and depression because of the difficult job you are accomplishing.
CAREGIVERS AND MOTHERS ARE NOT TO BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED
August 1, 2014 – I have often mentioned my wonderful caregivers and how blessed I am in having such devoted people in our home caring for Ken throughout these many years that he has been stricken with Alzheimer’s.
There was Ben who was one of the first to work for us and he brought us Crizaldo to fill in on his days off. Crizaldo is from the Philippine Islands. He is working here in the U. S. while his family remains in their home an ocean away. He and his wife agreed to do this so that his children can have a proper education: His daughter’s goal is to be a pediatrician. So he will be working for the next seven years for her to get her degree.
David was with us for a while in the beginning before Crizaldo came, and now that Ben has retired David puts in a full six days out of the week. They all have been more than I could have ever expected in helping me through this intense journey into the Alzheimer’s world of deep forgetting. And now we are in another phase of help, concern and caring.
THE UNEXPECTED CAN COME FROM OUT OF NOWHERE
David was in an automobile accident last week and was unhurt except for a broken ankle. So what do we do when the caregiver can’t do his job. The next morning there was David struggling on crutches letting me know what had happened. “Is it all right if my mom takes my place,” he asked limping as best he could. “My wife Sofia can help, as well as my brother and my dad. I’m sure I’ll be fine in a week or so,” he said confidently.
Mom and her helpers are doing a wonderful job while David is unavailable. It wasn’t a simple sprain which we all hoped it would be, but a spiral break in the small bone. Surgery is scheduled for next week where the doctors will put a pin in place to secure the damage.
MOTHERS JUST DO THOSE KINDS OF THINGS
Meanwhile, life at our house is going smoothly. I say that recalling the many times I tossed a shoulder bag filled with newspapers over my head and walked my son’s route to deliver the morning news to all of his subscribers. I had never developed the skills and balance to ride their bikes, guide the handle bars with my knees and toss the paper onto the right porch. I did tell myself, however, that the walk would do me good. So, there I was a substitute deliverer of the local newspaper to the various homes in our neighborhood. Mothers just do those kinds of things to help out their children. I suppose that’s all part of their knowing and understanding that parents are always “there” for them.
I am grateful that I’m one of many mothers who will step in at a moment’s notice and pick up the slack for their children. Is the task taken by David’s mom to be an Alzheimer’s caregiver more complex than tossing a folded newspaper? Of course, but I find that all is working out well, and I am so grateful that David’s mom was able to step up to the plate during this emergency. “This is helping my family,” she explains.
This gallery contains 1 photo.
IS THERE A CONNECTION?
July 25, 2014 – I have wondered for many a year is there is a connection between selective memory and Alzheimer’s. Ken has had occasion to have a selective memory and is now in his 11th year of AD.
The first experience with Selective memory was the first year we were married. He was a G.I. Student going for a degree in Engineering. The time: long before there were any signs of Alzheimer’s on either side of our families. I had a great job and we had income from his G.I. Bill of Rights. Furthermore, with just the two of us he took on a part-time job at a local gas station working a few hours after college before hitting the books.
A VERY CLEVER CON ARTIST
One evening he called me from the gas station.
“I’ve just been taken by a ‘bunko’ artist,” he said disgusted with himself.
Immediately he ran the ploy by me on the phone. He was embarrassed, frustrated and angry with himself for being so gullible.
“I should have known better,” he claimed, chastising himself. “How could I have been so stupid?”
“It was an old con job,” he continued, “I should have seen right through it,and now it will cost me $50.00. Some guy came in – sincere as he could be – asking for my boss and calling Fred by name. “He’s not here?” the guy asked with an incredulous tone in his voice. “Fred promised to loan me $50.00,” the con continued. “And he promised he would be here. Did he tell you about our deal?
NOT EVEN GOOD ENOUGH FOR A CRACKER-JACK PRIZE
“He did not,” Ken answered ”adding that I just couldn’t see my way clear to give him the money without authorization. but the guy pleaded with me over and over. Then he pulled off his diamond-studded gold watch and diamond ring and handed both to me.” ‘All in good faith,’ he committed. ‘ Take these and I’ll be back tomorrow, pick up my valuables and return the $50.00 – deal?
“I had a feeling that I was doing the wrong thing, but he was leaving collateral so I went into the office and pulled out fifty and gave it to him. As he drove away I knew I’d been had.”
When Ken arrived home he was chagrined beyond measure so I didn’t say anything except I did ask to see the collateral. I forced myself to hold my tongue. He already felt terrible. The $50.00 covered our rent at the time. As I looked at the valuables I didn’t understand why Ken could have been fooled by the two pieces of junk. At best they looked like prizes from a Cracker-Jack box.
“I feel so foolish,” Ken confessed. “Please don’t tell our friends or family. It’ll be hard enough explaining to Fred.” But he did and Fred was understanding. He did, however, deduct the money from Ken’s paycheck.
GONE AND FORGOTTEN
Absently I tossed the junk jewelry into the desk drawer where it continued to tarnish for several months. Finally, I threw both items in the garbage.
Years later I mentioned the incident to Ken about the gold watch and valuable ring. “Remember when you were taken in that con game and the guy gave you the diamond-studded watch and ring, and you gave him $50.00 from the cash drawer of the service station?” Further conversation caused Ken to get very defensive about being so gullible, and he denied any knowledge of what had happened. “That never happened to me,” he claimed. “It must have been one of your former boy friends. I’m not that stupid.”
At the time I wished that I had saved the worthless evidence to show him. However I am certain he would not have recognized the junk jewelry no matter what I said. Rather than make him angry, which would have had no point, I chose to just forget the whole thing
A PHYSCRITIC EXPLANATION
Remembering the incident and realizing where my husband is in his Alzheimer’s journey today; I read up on Selective Memory. Among the explanations was one that seemed to fit him to a tee. It said that selective memory incidents are often related to people who are over-confident in certain areas. For example,the stock broker who brags about his expanding portfolio, but if he loses on some hot deal he becomes so embarrassed his mind hides the loss and his mistake by selectively removing it from memory. I can see Ken falling into that category very well. He was a very confident man – at times confident without the necessary knowledge on a subject under discussion so he would bluff his way through. Confident that he was too smart to be taken in a con game, so the incident went the way of the $50.00: vanished.
We, as humans and the medical community are so in the dark when it comes to knowing and understanding the brain we have no idea why things happen. There were at lease two more incidents in our marriage when Ken conveniently forgot an event, but none so expensive as the con artist and his junk jewelry. Whether selective memory has anything to do with Alzheimer’s I don’t claim to know. Or, could it be a very early sign that trouble with memory is brewing.
MEMORIES OF LONG AGO
July 17, 2014 – Granddaughter Kristina was barely into her teen years when her grandfather began his journey into the mysterious and frightening world of Alzheimer’s. Her memories of him as her fun-loving, teasing grandfather were numerous. Since then, she has quietly watched from the sidelines of her youth and young adulthood as he has slipped away into the Alzheimer’s world, and learned to love him in a different way.
TIME CHANGES EVERYONE
A few years later she was there for him, taking my place, following a serious 2010 automobile accident which left me incapacitated for several months. Helping our professional caregivers with changing, cleaning and showering Kristina found a very different grandfather than the one she so lovingly remembered. A heavy burden for a young girl recently out of high school, but the experience was in her chosen line of work – that of a medical assistant. She had already stacked up several years of experience, both as a volunteer and then as an employee with the local recreation department working with disabled adults.
NOT THE SAME GRANDFATHER
Helping with her grandfather, however, was different because of the close relationship. Furthermore, there were times when he was abusive with her when Ken wasn’t as firmly restrained as he was later. Little by little with the caregiver’s expertise we all learned new methods in working with our Alzheimer’s patient who was still amazingly strong with some remaining verbal skills which could be cruel and insulting. Nevertheless, Kristina along with the rest of us learned to love and accept who he was and understood that her grandfather’s outbursts were the disease and not the grandpa she had known.
My husband’s disease has taken him further and further into the lost world of Alzheimer’s, and while there is never an improvement, he has become less hostile and every so often the love comes forth as Ken makes an effort to communicate.
MESSAGE FROM THE HEART
Kristina sat with him yesterday afternoon asking how he was feeling and other tidbits of small talk. Finally she reached out touching his hand and said, “I love you Grandpa.” He smiled a sweet smile and managed a faltering, “I loooo” He didn’t get out the complete thought and word , but it was almost there and she knew it. She was thrilled with the sweet moment when he made an effort to return her message of love