What Alzheimer’s Disease Has Taught Me

Hey all. I’m having a bit of an introspective week. It’s only Tuesday but I feel a little more blah then normal.  Must be the weather again.

This morning while riding in the back seat to mom’s day care (I really hate that terminology) day program somehow seems more dignified to me so from now on that is what it will be.  Oh and just so you know, mom was not driving, my husband was. It’s too hard to get into the back of the Jeep so I do it.  WOW totally lost control of that thought.

Again while I was riding to day program I started thinking about what Alzheimer’s Disease has taught me.  Here are my top five. Before anyone jumps all over my case I will talk a little bit about these below.

  1. Having a disease that affects the brain is catastrophic!  There are no in your face physical signs of disease. 
  2. Science tells us many ways to keep our bodies healthy but knows so little about preventing brain atrophy.
  3. Be patient and show some compassion to the elderly in our society. Their bodies may be kept alive by the pharmaceutical companies, but their brains may have forgotten how to use them.
  4. Enjoy your brain and the many things is can do for you. Don’t waste its power.
  5. Plan for the future, but don’t waste the present.

Number 1 is not meant to take away from anyone who suffers from a physical illness. Cancer for instance runs rampant on both sides of my family. Breast, skin, lung, colon, liver…we got it. Lung cancer often metastasizes to the brain which it did for my father and at least one of my aunts. I even told my doctor once that ovarian or uterine was going to be mine. We haven’t had any in our blood family. My younger cousin who died from colon cancer; his wife had uterine or ovarian cancer. She was family, but not blood related.

I have also watched friends waste away from AIDS.  I’ve lost count of the people I know who have been diagnosed with MS, and thankfully everyone who was HepC positive responded to the treatment and is undetectable.  All have physical signs when they attack the human body.  Alzheimer’s wastes away the brain behind the scenes, possibly for many years. It’s not until it’s advanced does it cause physical failure like forgetting how to talk, forgetting how to walk, forgetting how to eat then swallow, and sometimes it hides itself from outsiders.  You might think grandma is sitting quietly because she has had a long day and is tired.  In reality she may have no idea where she is and who all these strange people are.  She can’t remember grandpa, you, or the grand kids.

Number 2 is rather self-explanatory. We all know we should eat better (though everyone has an opinion on what better is).  Obviously living on processed food, drinking in excess, and smoking are bad for us.  Keeping our bodies healthy is a good start but it won’t stop you from getting Alzheimer’s.  I read a blog written by a doctor, Watching The Lights Go Out, who has been diagnosed. He did not waste his life away partying and being a couch potato yet parts of his brain are slowly wasting away.

Number 3 is extremely difficult for me.  Patience is not one of my attributes.  I am one of the most impatient people I know. I don’t want to move slow, I don’t want to wait, I want to go go go…..Just get out of my way!  That’s me.  As for compassion I now look at older people with knowledge that they possibly can’t help dropping their plate, or their drink all over.  They sometimes miss their mouths with their fork, and when they stop short in the middle of the grocery aisle it might be because they are lost and confused. They don’t want to look and act this way any more than you do.  Have some compassion for them.  It could be you someday.

Number 4 means just what it says.  Turn off the damn tv and pick up puzzles or a good book. Give your brain some exercise every day. Think, contemplate, analyze, keep the blood flowing to your brain. Learn to play the piano, learn to line dance, take a class, do something that requires you to process information.

Number 5 is for those of us like me. I work for my paycheck every week. It’s not enough to survive on never mind bank for the future.  Even if I could bank for the future I would be in the position my mom is in. Too much money for Medicaid and way to little to provide any kind of good care for when I’m older.  If you are young enough to have many many years ahead to save then do it, but if you are my age, 50+, it’s too late to save for any of the all-inclusive senior housing villages.  My only hope is the lottery or being able to hang onto my house until most of the mortgage is paid and we can sell.  Even though I have a tendency to be like a squirrel when it comes to money, I am learning it’s ok to go to the dollar store and spend $10. It’s not going to mean the end of the world.  It might mean my mortgage waits another week or the electric bill doesn’t get paid in full, but I am trying so hard not to live for a tomorrow that may never come.

Posted in All In A Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments