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WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?

Decorated Christmas Tree
Even something as simple as putting up the Christmas tree could be a great help for Alzhiemer’s caregivers.

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Originally posted 2011-12-10 05:37:08.

ROAD SIGNS FOR ALZHEIMER’S

risks ahead

There are many risks ahead for both caregivers and victims of Alzheimer's.

“Everyone is different,” said my friend, Madalyn, whenever I tried to compare Ken with her husband, Darwin, whose body succumbed to death from its own ills even as his brain deteriorated with Alzheimer’s. Darwin developed AD a few years before Ken so I suppose it was natural for me to look for some kind of gage to compare their journeys. What I was to learn, though, is that AD does not follow a precise pattern like the common cold which is usually gone in two weeks – or 14 days – if you take good care of yourself: a solid time frame if there are no complications. I wanted something like that: road signs, directions and distance as my gage so I could be better prepared for what was to come. AD doesn’t work that way. Rather than gages, I got stages: mild, intermediate and severe cognitive loss, and that’s about as good as it gets even though it still doesn’t allow us, caregivers and family, to determine the approximate sickness location until the evidence is blatant. The brain and its deterioration process are still too much of a mystery.

As we watch our loved ones slip further and further into the depths of The Devil’s disease we can only guess – with input from the neurologist — at the three stages, and when they slip from one into the other there is not much of a sign – nothing dramatic – until one day you realize the patient has moved from mild to intermediate, and somewhere down the line to severe. And in observing the changes, I have come to agree with Madalyn. Everyone is different. So is the first tale-tale sign that something may be going wrong with someone we love.

Ken’s mom and dad were our first experience with Alzheimer’s, but as I have mentioned before absolute diagnosis in the late 1970s could only be determined with an autopsy. None of our medical people suggested it be done after they passed, nor did we make the request. However, that was all right because we didn’t need absolute proof; we knew what we had witnessed. An enemy from within had destroyed their brain and it wasn’t as simple as senility or old age. It’s now, in retrospect, that I search my own memory in an effort to recall some of those first signs which may have hinted to what awfulness lay ahead.

UNREASONABLE: In many relationships unreasonable would be a shot in the dark as far as determining a disease such as Alzheimer’s. Ken’s father, Nick, could be a stubborn man, even unreasonable at times, being the patriarch of the family with a lifetime of independence and dogged responsibility, a world traveler, eight years in the Marines, a strong union member, leader and officer he still managed to remain open for discussion. Then he began to change. The episode I remember, which was beyond reason, had to do with the simplicity of watching television during the Summer Olympics somewhere in the mid to late 1970s.

“What are those young women wearing,” he complained while watching the gymnastic performances. “They may as well be naked. You would never see young women from Yugoslavia wearing something like that.”

Tito was still in power at the time, and while Nick hailed from an area which had been part of Austria, it became part of the new state under Tito. Therefore, 60 years after his immigration he considered himself from Yugoslavia, and was proud of the modesty and decorum of the country’s women – not like the shameless women from other nations, including the U.S.A.

“Dad,” protested Ken, “Yugoslavia is participating in this segment of the Olympics and all of the young women are wearing body suits. You’ll see that when Yugoslavia’s team competes.”

“Never!” grumbled Nick. “Our young women would never dress like that.” Seeing was not believing; Yugoslavia’s team appeared in body suits and participated. Nick was unaccepting saying they must be interlopers, not really from his former country. Ken’s further discussion was waved aside as Nick sliced his hand through the air ending Ken’s participation.

Even though the program had moved on to other events, Nick wouldn’t let the lack of modest attire go. Gymnastics were forgotten, but immodesty prevailed in many forms including swim suits. Ken and I talked about it on the way home, remarking how stubborn and set in his ways he was getting, and now he was to the point where no one could tell him anything. Nothing was up for discussion. He knew it all and his word was law. It was only in retrospect and continuing evidence that we had to accept as fact that something was happening to the man we had known so long. His mind was no longer functioning as it once did.

“You don’t know anything.” “Leave that alone.” “Don’t let the boy (our grandson) do that. He’ll get hurt.” “Leave me alone.” “No! I don’t need to shower.” “I don’t have to change my clothes. They’re not dirty.” “Put the lamps on the floor. If we have an earthquake they’ll crash through the window.” “I wear my coat and hat in the house because I might get cold.” “They tricked me so I lost my driver’s license.” No matter how we tried talking with him, Nick became more and more confused and unreasonable.

The diagnosis of AD was ours and arrived at some years following his death. It quickly surpassed what Rose was suffering from, and yet we still didn’t know what it was, nor did we know what to do. Wearing too many clothes, he collapsed on hot days and was taken to the hospital with the paramedics explaining he had become overheated. The doctors determined he was just getting old and demented, suggesting we find a good care facility for him. We did. He died a week later.

Originally posted 2011-05-30 04:58:01.

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