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?