Alzheimer’s

Got some bad news. Me and Dad were pretty sure this was coming, but we kept our fingers crossed and hoped for the best. Mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Of course the family doctor didn’t want to freak her out so he’s calling it “Dementia.” That’s what doctors like to call it these days. It’s less scary to people when you call Alzheimer’s something else. Mom has a history of the disease on her side of the family. Her mother had it, actually she started developing symptoms at a rather early age. I think she was in her 60s. Grandma had a real harsh accident because of Alzheimer’s so the whole family has been kinda terrorized since then.

Many people don’t realize that Alzheimer’s is more than just short or long term memory loss. Cognitive skills also suffer rapidly. It might not be that a person can’t remember how to do something like fill a glass with water in the kitchen, they may no longer have the motor function to make it happen. For example, people with Alzheimer’s frequently can’t tell what time it is using a clock. They didn’t necessarily forget what a clock is, they just can’t read it and make sense of the dial. Once I saw a guy who had Alzheimer’s point at the floor with his finger when a doctor told him to point at the ceiling. In his mind he thought he was pointing at the ceiling. So it’s that kind of wackyness. Unpredictable.

When my Grandmother died I realized how serious this disease is. We came to the conclusion Grandma couldn’t live alone anymore so my parents moved her into an assisted living apartment complex. People there get to retain much of their independence but a facility like that does have resources available on site just in case anything bad happens. My Mom and Aunt took turns throughout the week staying with her at the apartment. On days neither one of them could be there a professional nurse spent time with Grandma. Everything was going well enough, but there was one nasty problem. Grandma couldn’t figure out how to use the thermostat to heat up her place at night. Instead she would go to the oven, open the door, and put the fucker on broil. That became her apartment’s heater. We caught her doing that almost right away so my mom took all the knobs off the oven controls.

Months afterward Grandma somehow managed to turn on the broiler again even without the knobs. It was late at night that evening. When she decided it was warm enough she went to shut the oven off but her arm slipped inside. She was wearing a nightgown made of a synthetic material. It brushed up against a glowing oven element and instantly caught on fire. Apparently she didn’t know what to do so she walked out into the middle of her livingroom floor where she just stood there and went up like a human torch. Grandma inhaled some of the flames while she burned, effectively wrecking the inside of her lungs. When paramedics arrived she had been severely burned all over the upper half of her body and was flown by emergency helicopter to a special burn center in Oakland. She died three days later. All things considered I think that was for the best. Surviving something like that would have been truly horrible.

Dad and I had to go over to Grandma’s apartment to begin packing up her stuff after she died. I remember looking at the center of her livingroom carpet. There was a four or five foot radius of carpet that had completely melted down to concrete and just above on the ceiling there was a giant charred black spot. I found one of the lenses from her glasses resting on an antique chair nearby. It had melted through the chair fabric. Her frames from those glasses were nowhere to be found.

Now that Mom has been diagnosed with the same disease all of us are depressed to say the least. Mom is only 53 years old. That seems too young to be hit with something like this. Dad and I suspected something was brewing though. For the past couple of years Mom has been acting like she had some symptoms of Alzheimer’s in very early stages, but we couldn’t really tell if that was the root cause of her weirdness or if it was her drinking. Mom drinks a lot. I mean, a hell of a lot. Her poison of choice is white wine. Mom’s usual routine is to come home from work, plunk herself down in an easy chair with television remote in hand, and start knocking back glass after glass of white wine. She usually gets completely goofy on that stuff. Both Dad and I brought this up with the family doctor and his opinion was Mom had a drinking problem. It wasn’t early Alzheimer’s. Guess he was wrong on that one and now we’ve lost a couple of years worth of time that something could have been done. Shitty.

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~ by factorypeasant on July 9, 2006.

4 Responses to “Alzheimer’s”

  1. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are not the same thing. I have had both sets of GPs suffer from one thing or another. They are different. Trust me!

  2. hey jo i’ll have to disagree with you on this one.

    alzheimers = dimentia

    dimentia = don’t scare the patient

  3. Wow, that story is wild, I hope your Mom has better chances today with newer drugs and hopefully a little time before it gets much worse.

    Presenile Dementia is a symptom of both Alzheimer’s and alcoholism.

    Dementia is an easy diagnosis for a doc to make while alcoholism can be very a very touchy subject and I think a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be made only at autopsy …

  4. Thats about the saddest story I have heard in a long time.
    TC

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