Alzheimer’s Disease


#1

A family member was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about a year ago. Since then, it’s become progressively worse. Today’s session with the doctor went something like this:

Doctor: What is 6 + 6?

Answer: 12

Doctor: What county are we in?

Answer: I know…I just forget the name.

Doctor: What did you eat for breakfast?

Answer: Bread (incorrect answer)

Doctor: Where are we?

Answer: The hospital.

Doctor: How did you get here?

Answer: Taxi (incorrect answer)

Doctor: Please point to your wife?

Answer: Here [and points to his daughter instead of his wife]

Doctor: Chairs and tables are furniture. What are dogs, birds and cats?

Answer: Animals

Doctor: What is 3 x 3?

Answer: 9

Doctor: Which one is you ? (shows 5 photos of different people & one is him)

Answer: This one [incorrect]

His ability to answer correctly changes day to day. He remains loving and friendly…and very good with numbers. Central to his illness is his belief that everyone is stealing from him. He now hides things before they can be stolen. Last night we found the rice cooker, clock and DVD player under his bed.

Anyway, I’ve been reading and found an excellent website. I recommend to everyone because it’s extremely informative in terms of the brain itself, and what to look out for. It’s a disease we should all be aware of.

A slide show tour of the brain: alz.org/brain/01.asp
10 possible signs of Alzheimers: alz.org/national/documents/c … 0signs.pdf


#2

8 years ago a dear loved one was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It’s been a steady decline from a sharp-witted and knowledgeable person to zombie-like depths of dementia. Each year I go back to the US, and one of the things I do while there is pitch in to help out (doing things like gardening and repair work, which the caregiver has little time to do himself).

Progress (the following is only a partial list of behaviors):

2001: apparently totally normal.
2002 - 2004: mostly normal, but would sometimes misplace objects and would veer off on odd tangents in conversation. Confused about time and date. Placed on Aricept.
2005: Would read newspaper articles out loud, and then a few minutes later read them again in their entirety. Started to lose ability to see things from others’ perspective. Hid things. Did ordinary, simple things wrong.
2006: Would obsess about future plans. (“We’re going to London tomorrow [in reality not for 3 months]; I must pack.”) Caregiver cautioned people not to mention future plans to her. Would forget to turn water off. Given stimuli would result in predictable responses (e.g. seeing a commercial would elicit a predictable verbal response.). Would misplace things and hide them. Would put clothes on in wrong order (e.g. shirt over coat). Last time I ever had a relatively meaningful conversation with her - one that involved original thought on her part. Required 24-hour supervision.
2007: Major decline after her mother’s death (her mother had no dementia at all, even at age 96). Acted like a drunk child. Very short attention span. Liked watching TV show House, but when watching the cold openings the show is known for, would say, “This isn’t House.” Frequent pacing. Last time I had any form of conversation with her. Lost some ability to separate her own mind from that of others: if another person ate chips on their own accord, she would throw a tantrum, complaining that she didn’t like chips. Lost ability to filter out extraneous stimuli. Prone to destroy things (e.g. taking a pen and underlining passages in old, rare books).
2008: Total confusion. Terrified of bathtime. Temper tantrums grew common. Exhibited uncharacteristic violent behavior (but easily overpowered by caregiver, me and anyone else bigger than her). Incontinence; lost ability to use bathroom. Unable to watch TV: would watch wall instead. Verbal skills declined considerably. Would automatically negate anything others say: (“The weather’s nice today.” Her: “No it’s not.” Driving past places like Starbucks would elicit response “It’s not Starbucks.”) No longer recognized anyone but her husband. Placed on anti-anxiety drugs. Placed in “adult daycare” daily so her husband could work.
2009: Verbal skills to near zero. Calmed down a great deal (actually making caring for her easier). Would say about four phrases: “Now what?” “Nope.” “Horrible.” “Shhhhhh.” Wandered around zombie-like. Would not sit down for more than a few seconds. No longer recognized husband, but apparently felt a sense of familiarity and reassurance when he was around.
2010: Same as previous year, bit verbal skills pretty much zero, and significantly reduced motor skills (which were fine in 2009). Still being cared for at home through special arrangements with network of relatives and friends.

It’s a tough journey.


#3

And here I was about to make a smart-arsed comment that I forgot what it was already.
Truly a horrible, horrible disease. I had a good friend who’s mother died at an impossibly young age of early-onset Alzheimer’s, and I wouldn’t wish that upon my worst enemy.
My sincere condolences to you both, and hoping that neither of you, or indeed any of you, will succumb to this hateful, hateful affliction. Although some of you undoubtedly will. Just look at the chief.


#4

Exactly. the chief is starting to quote himself. That’s one of the signs.

My step-father has it. His father died of it. A friend just told my mother about a neighbor who has had it for 18 years now and is still (barely) alive.

More women than men get it, and it’s going to cripple health care systems of aging countries unless they figure out a way to handle it.

I’m guessing that living wills will be more common in the future. If I couldn’t even watch TV, I’d want someone like the chief to take me fishin’.


#5

I lost two dear aunts to the disease. Nasty one at that. The end is just impossible to deal with. I wish you all the best.


#6

Because let’s face it, watching the chief stumbling about in a vest and rubber thigh waders is plenty more entertainment than most people could stand.


#7

Wow. This brings up a lot of memories.
I can’t sort it chronologically like Chris did (Oh, no! maybe that’s a dreaded sign…), but I certainly relate to a lot of what the two of you said.
My grandparents were the only constant in my life. They were much more like parents to me, and I lived with them on and off growing up. My grandmother showed signs of forgetting things as she got older, in spite of doing all the crosswords and extensive reading one could cram into a life. I blame it on the aluminum pots at the cabin. I suspect they came from the main house before my memory reaches. Which means I am safe. (right?)
ha.
Here is what I may get to look forward to:
Started off with short blanks - missing a word, driving the car someplace and taking the bus home.
Tried daycare, but she was expelled after she punched out someone else’ grandmother.
Perceived theft was an issue, so things were hidden (diamond rings in the trash, which the helper found in time and turned over to the family - then my grandmother really accused the helper of theft. After all, where were the rings? sigh…).
She would follow “this stranger” (the helper) everywhere. Not trusting, and adjusting things she did. For example, taking the half a salmon the helper had put in the deep freeze and moving it to the washer, “where it belonged”.

Temper tantrums were usually manifested as aggression toward the helper - the basement stairs were boarded up after she tried to throw the helper down them. This obviously made it very difficult to find relief help on weekends. Went through a lot of staff that just couldn’t cope with her. Teary phone calls to the family were not uncommon.
Wandering. Calling taxis to the house to “rescue” her and take her to her childhood house down the hill. A block was put on the taxi registry - no taxi would come to the house, no matter what you said. Police picked her up wandering (several times), once in a full slip, stockings, and pumps in the middle of the night - in the snow.
Garden was locked to prevent this, but later doors were locked as well, due to the dangers of the ponds. As well, upper stories were boarded up to prevent accidents on the stairs.
Most women were addressed by her eldest daughter’s name.
Her husband died just before it started to get bad,although this is fuzzy, there was a lot going on then. Later she frequently asked where he was. Telling her he had died always resulted in hysterical sobbing - like it was the first time she had heard. That was really hard, seeing someone go through that pain over and over again, and not being able to go through the grieving process normally. Taking her to the beach house on my own was almost easy, I thought. Until we got there and it turned out she was expecting to see him there. It was very, very hard to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t do it on my own without the helper.
Going to a restaurant could result in asking “Who this gentleman was?” (the driver) and asking again after a few minutes. “Why is that man following us? Who is he?” . And again, and again. Sometimes, comments were positive, "Well, he’s very kind, isn’t he?"
Giving medicine at a restaurant once resulted in being accused of trying to poison her, along with loud calls for help to other patrons. That was especially fun.
Her often asking for an extra cup and saucer for her husband during tea at home was a sure way to convince the helper that his ghost was still there (I rather enjoyed that one, and played along, offering biscuits in the direction of his chair). The helpers were rather superstitious, which I delighted in.
Later, she needed more care than the home visits from the nurses and physicians could accommodate, and had to be moved to a long term care facility at the university I was working/studying at. It was amazing she was able to stay at home that long - thanks to Canada’s fantastic health care system (under fire, I know). Since my building was really close, I got to go in an help feed her for the last 6 months. We put a "do not resuscitate order on her (no breaking of ribs doing chest pumps on my 90 year old grandmother, thank you.) As she got really, really bad, they changed her status so that she could have higher levels of morphine for the last few days.
A few months after she died, I came here.
Yeah… it is/was really, really hard. My heart goes out to you guys. I am so very sorry your family needs to go through this


#8

I feel for him , having been through this . It is heartbreaking . I hope nobody has to go through this , but it’s so common .:sob:


#9

My grandmother had dementia before she passed. I know it’s not exactly Alzheimer’s, but it’s the same concept of losing one’s self. First she’d forget small details like what she had for dinner, then big details like the fact I was engaged, then she forgot me completely, then my mom who’s her daughter, then her late husband who she mourned for years over, and finally she forgot how to feed herself, go to the bathroom, etc. It’s terrible. I’d rather cancer than that.


#10

I feel for you . I went through the same trauma . Makes you realize That without the brain functioning properly, the body can become just a shell . It’s awful to see the physical person you knew disappear.:face_with_head_bandage::cry:


#11

It’s a horrible disease. To follow up from my original post, she continued to decline steadily and was admitted to a care facility in 2011. She died nine months later in 2012, her final day numbed by morphine, as by that stage she could no longer swallow. A tragedy for all.

At the time I kept the “family member’s” identity hidden for privacy’s sake. I can now reveal that she was in fact my mother.


#12

I’m so sorry, @Chris.