My Mom’s Alzheimer’s:Chronicling the Journey
Alzheimer’s is a brain degenerative disease named after the German clinical psychiatrist Dr. Alois Alzheimer who is credited with identifying the first published case in 1906. The disease is now on an exponential rise. There are hereditary and environmental factors that influence our susceptibility to Alzheimer’s dementia. This, and upcoming articles, aim to shed some light on this disease and bring awareness of lifestyle choices that may influence our direction toward or away from its clutches.
“By mid-century, the number of Americans age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia may grow to 13.8 million. This represents a steep increase from the estimated 5.8 million Americans age 65 and older who have Alzheimer’s dementia today.” https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com
At Alzheimer’s initial onset, it is easy to mistake some initial symptoms as personality quirks or lifestyle changes exacerbated by stress. This can lead to family strife when the victim’s negative behaviors are deemed as deliberate. Even worse, some symptoms mimicking Alzheimer’s, such as forgetfulness are sometimes misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s leaving the root cause of symptoms untreated. Unlike cancer, diabetes and many other diseases with longer track records of study and significant success in treatment, Alzheimer’s begins to rip families apart from its earliest onset.
The premise that Alzheimer’s is largely preventable is not the commonly held mindset of much of the medical community. However, the suggested ways to attempt to stave off this disease is through lifestyle changes that benefit the individual and the community, so what do we have to lose?
These articles will share long standing, general health information as it relates to the disease, information from sources such as Alz.org, the “Awakening from Alzheimer’s” series by Peggy Sarlin (a highly recommended book and video series) and thought-provoking titbits and anecdotal insights, all while chronicling my mother’s actual journey through Alzheimer’s dementia.
None of this information is intended to diagnose or treat any condition. This writer is not in any way medically trained and suggests first and foremost that any and every one reading these articles consult their physician before making any changes to their medical status or lifestyle.
‘Back in the day’, we all knew someone in our community who we thought was senile. We had a name for it, “Oldtimers”, as it was a given that this person was old, and the community accommodated the oddities of the old folks. In fact, we may even have joked about their idiosyncrasies the same way family members teased each other, but we also took care of them in their homes, or in our homes. We had time to care.
Nowadays, senility is not just forgetfulness or amusing anecdotes. And most concerning of all, it’s not just for the aged. Senility is gaining ground, fast. It is spreading like root rot in the tree of life. It is also no longer relegated to a select few. It, like everything else on the planet, is evolving. It is not waiting on the old, but it is stalking the middle aged and the young. Senility has bulked up and taken on a persona of its own. Senility has a new name; its name is Alzheimer’s.
Today, Black and Brown communities in Florida make up 35% of those living with Alzheimer’s disease. This means an estimated 17,000,000 people of color in Florida currently have or are at risk of developing this disease. This percentage is on track to rise exponentially in the next three years.
Are you at risk of falling victim to this devastating disease?
Why should you pay attention to this issue? At this moment in time there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. This potentially leaves everyone at risk. To be informed is to be pre-warned. But if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with this disease, you are likely in the crucible of its stress. Again, I am not a medical professional and offer no such advice. However, for those who operate from a position of faith, there is always hope, and it comes from an unseen source. Hopelessness hides in fear and Alzheimer’s is a master of fear and deception.
Yes, there is no known cure, so let’s begin with conversation. Let’s rip the covers off and shine the light of awareness in all the dark places where it hides. As contradictory as it may sound, the first step in getting beyond fear, hopelessness and loss is to accept them as a part of our journey.
Here is the first excerpt in my mother’s journey:
It’s a sweet morning. The rain had washed the earth, the palm trees are shining with vibrant newness. As I come out of a sweet, deep meditation, the call to Acceptance still rings in my ears. Acceptance is the path to change. Today I am to accept people and circumstances as they are.
I walk into the kitchen to find my mother, dressed in what amounts to five different outfits: a pair of pants, a skirt, a dress, a top and a windbreaker along with her socks and sandals. It is the height of summer and even at seven A.M. the A/C is already working hard at keeping our space cool. Beads of sweat are forming on her forehead, but she refuses the suggestion to lessen the layers.
She has taken food out of the refrigerator which sits untouched while she opens a sweet treat. She denies any knowledge of the abundance of bagels that she eats each morning. There are bags of bagels in the fridge and freezer to match her long-standing preference for this as her morning meal, along with fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, breads and various leftovers. But she stands, lost. Having made her coffee, she is unsure of what to do; the sweet treat within reach becoming the obvious option. She switches on the stove, heating water, even though she has already made her coffee. I lead her gently through our morning routine of preparing her bagel, ham, butter.
“Let’s get a plate, let’s toast the bagel, here’s a knife. Let’s add the butter….“
It’s time to accept the unacceptable, be at home with the unimaginable. It’s time to surrender.
Dixie Ann Black is a Health & Wellness Consultant, Author and Public Speaker.
She was born and raised on the beautiful island of Jamaica. Her background includes a rich tapestry of martial arts, poetry, dance, yoga, travel, social service administration and public speaking. Dixie’s passion is Oneness through Wellness. Her books, Just Chasing the Sun and Bring the Dawn , are available on Amazon.com. Dixie is currently caring for her mother who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia. They live in South Florida.