Saturday, January 20, 2007

Quick Post on Alzheimers

Alzheimers is a difficult disease for any family to deal with. When I was married over 15 years ago, my Father-In-Law was a joke telling, happy go lucky card playing person. We didn’t understand at first what started happening to him. At first, we thought it was just part of getting older. He would forget what he was doing, or where he put the keys or some other odd thing. We didn’t realize at the time, that all of us were about to start down a long and difficult road.
Alzheimers disease affects the mind in such a way, that the person (at least in our situation) cannot function in normal situations. In our situation, Dad started living more and more in the past, and less and less in the present. One time, when Dad’s wife was sick and in the hospital, he couldn’t remember where she was. “Where is she?”, Dad would ask. She is at the hospital, we would reply. Five minutes later, we would repeat the same discussion. We would do this over and over.
In our case, as Alzheimers progressed, Dad would stop recognizing us. One time, my husband went to visit and Dad hollered and yelled at the strange man who had come over. Dad even threw a punch when the strange man known as his son came into the home.
Alzheimers is a disease that never seems to stop. As Dad’s condition worsened, he would start wandering off – not knowing where he was. We had to get a door alarm that would sound when the door was opened to keep him from leaving. However, even that didn’t work all the time. One time, in winter, Dad wandered off in his P.J.s. We had to call the police to help us find him.
Now Dad has moved to a secure facility that is designed to care for patients with Alzheimers. He seems happy, but it is hard for us, to see his life so drained of what it was and what it could still be if he didn’t have Alzheimers disease. I think Alzheimers is a disease that affects the whole family. If we visit, he doesn’t know who we are. He doesn’t even remember that we were there. He still remembers that he was married, but he doesn’t remember to whom he was married to.
What causes Alzheimers? The doctors don’t know for sure. Doctor’s know that each patient reacts differently to the disease and the disease progresses differently for each person. There is still no treatment for the disease. For our family, we take comfort knowing that Dad is happy and not in pain, even if he doesn’t know us anymore.