A Sentiment

God knew what He was doing when He sent a gentle breeze and brought a lovely butterfly to set my heart at ease. The happiness of your friendship and the gentleness of your words have touched my life in special ways and now I feel assured. Thank you for your loyalty and for reading everyday. I only hope you find things to make a happy day.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Cruelest Disease

I turned on CBS Sunday Morning today. The segment that I came in on was about Alzheimer's disease. They started out with very scary statistics about this dreadful disease. As the story continued, I was mesmerized. The reporter telling the story is Barry Petersen (a famous journalist) and it turned out that it was a very personal story for him. He told about a woman named Jan...a reporter for CNN and Sunday Morning. She traveled the world and brought the most interesting tales to TV from other countries.But at only 40 years old, the subtle changes began . . . the lapses in memory. Five years ago, when she was 55, she received a diagnosis both awful and heartbreaking. Jan had Alzheimer's disease. It has moved so fast that she is now in an assisted living facility, where this once bright, articulate woman struggles to make sense. It was painful to watch. She seems so happy, but clearly has trouble putting thoughts and sentences together. When she is taken for a meal...she turns to the mirror and wants to take the lady in the mirror with her. She lives in a beautiful facility and gets the best of care....Not like so many who dwell in nursing homes that can't handle people like Jan. At the end of the show, we find out that she is Barry Petersen's wife. When he visits....her face lights up, but she clearly doesn't know him. He has tears in his eyes through some of his visit to his wife. The story goes on to say that Jan always wanted people to get on with their lives and live to the hilt....in her words "Embrace life" Barry has that to live with now. He has found someone to love, besides Jan. He and his new partner visit her and lovingly care for her. You can see that Jan and his new lady really like each other.

My Mom suffered from Alzheimer's Disease. It is the cruelest thing. Here is a perfectly normal looking person on the outside, but one who is so confused and troubled on the inside. The hardest moment for me was when my Mom didn't know who I was. I just wasn't going to accept that. I would go to see her and say hello, and tell her it was her daughter visiting. I didn't give her a chance to falter and wonder who I was, out loud. I always told her my name. I think that way, I could pretend that she knew me. She had a lost look on her face most of the time, but when my Dad would come...her eyes just danced.

As of right now research says there is no known cause of Alzheimer's, no cure, no way of knowing if you will have it and nothing you can do to prevent it. Some people do zillions of puzzles each day...thinking that they can beat it. That may help a bit with dementia, but won't help keep Alzheimer's from your door. And as baby boomers age, the problem will get far worse. Right now, some 5 million people have it. By mid-century, that number is expected to triple. Every decade after 65, the risk of developing Alzheimer's roughly doubles, so that by age 85 approximately 50 percent of the population is affected.
Will I get Alzheimer's? They don't really know if it is hereditary. I can't live my life in fear of getting this disease. If I did worry about it...every time I forget something, or lose my keys, or leave a light on...I would be upset. These are natural things with aging. So, I have never worried about it too much. I have a strong faith in God...and whatever life deals me, I will accept it. Until then, I too, will embrace life.
I was torn at the end of the show....How would I have felt if my Dad had found someone else. My Mom and Dad were quite a bit older than this couple, so it was hardly likely. He took care of her for 10 yrs. in their home. I can't imagine him doing that, but how would I have felt?


Hocking Hills Gardener said...

It is such a cruel disease. My daughter was a nurse in nursing homes for many years and it always broke her heart to see them wasting away. I am not sure how I feel about her husband getting someone new before she is gone but I am not in his shoes and he is the one who has to live with that decision. My mother has dementia and even that saddens me so much because she was such an independent lady and I always went to her for the answers, now she is dependent on me and the roles have reversed. I remember how about visiting my grandma and she would not even know me and it was so heartbreaking.

Sue said...

I really am torn re: the situation of a person having a significant other while his/her spouse is still alive, though "not there in spirit." Is it still infidelity? Is it comfort? Just don't know...

Margie's Musings said...

Of course, my older sister, who is 77, has Alzheimers. She lives in an Alzheimer's unit in a nice nursing home. Most of the time we think she knows us but she's only had it three or four years. Who knows how long she will know us and how long she will live.

Balisha said...

I guess we can't really know how we would feel, if one of our family or friends was in this situation....not until we walked in their shoes as Lona said.We like to have all the correct answers and it just dumbfounds us when we don't. I just can't answer this one...Balisha

Anonymous said...

I guess we never know what we would do in any given situation until we walk in that person's shoes. I lost a niece to cancer about a year ago. She and I were very close. Her husband took care of her for two years and was there for her. He was by her side the entire time and was heart broken when she died. Less than six months later he was in Europe with another woman. The entire family was totally shocked especially my older sister, her mother. I don't want to judge him because he was married to my niece for almost 40 years and a good husband but it is hard to think about. I guess it was just so soon. I know the disease you talk about must be horrible to deal with but I don't know how I feel about her husband.

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

Dear Balisha..
I just watched a film starring Julie Cristi. It is called "Away From Her"...if you get a chance or have Netflex, you may like to see it.
It is very much like what you saw on television...very much! Like you, I don't want to live my life worrying..but I must tell you that I do feel nervous when I cannot remember a friends name that I have known for years and years.
I find myself going through the alphabet to find names of things. Maybe it is normal..but ..it's unnerving sometimes.
I was driving home from a very familiar place one day not long ago..and suddenly could not figure out where I was. I had a moment of panic..looked for familiar landmarks and saw NONE. It was a horrible moment and then I realized I had turned one street too early and that was why I was lost. Relief flooded over me and I got back on track and headed on home.
Little things like that...just the little things. I keep thinking they are normal..and they probably are..but it's scary. Very scary~!
Hugs..and thanks for this post. Sad but informative.

We had a high school friend who had Alzheimers and she just recently died after about 6 years of living like that. Like the man in your story, he met someone whose husband was in the same home as his wife and they became close. Both are in their late 70's.

Howards wife had dementia and died of it. He lived in a suspended state with her here at their home, trying to take care of her. He finally had a visiting nurse come in and help..but the nights were terrible for him. He had to hide all the knives...that sort of thing. He couldn't sleep at night because she would get up and pull the covers off him and yell "it's time to get up! GET UP!" all night long. He finally moved her into the guest room and locked her out..she would stand and pound and pound to be let in.

I think it really got to him. They were married over 50 years when she finally got really bad.

Yep. I fear it.

Balisha said...

It seems that most of us women have a strange feeling about a man who would find someone else, when his wife is in this condition. I think that it is because we are remembering our wedding vows..."in sickness and in health." We may feel that he took the vows when times were good...and didn't follow through. I am trying to put myself in that situation, but still can't find the answer.It must be so hard to make that decision and then live with all the criticism. Balisha

Balisha said...

Mona...I have watched that same movie...it is such a good film. I felt so bad for him.

When we forget to wear a coat when we go shopping on a cold day...it's old age, when we wear a bathrobe shopping it could be Alzheimers.
When we have trouble with our checkbook...it's old age, When we can't recognize numbers or do simple calculations...it could be Alzheimer's.
When you forget or can't think of the right word to use...it's old age. When you use an inappropriate word..it could be Alzheimer's.
Busy people can get distracted from time to time. For example, a person might leave something on the stove too long or not remember to serve part of a meal. People with Alzheimer's might prepare a meal and not only forget to serve it but also forget they made it.
If we forget something, only to remember it at a later time...it's simply old age.
I try to think of these things, when I forget something.We have to learn to make notes and write down important things.Actually just paying attention helps.
It's much harder on people who have had this disease and dementia in their family...we can think about it all the time and drive ourselves crazy, but I have learned to just put the worry aside and trust in the Lord.