Much like my post in October about the importance of breast cancer awareness, Alzheimer’s and dementia awareness is in November. It is also caregiver appreciation month. I have learned many things since December 2015. I know that many caregivers, like me, fell into this roll for this disease. Some willingly, some, not so much. Some prepared to quit their jobs, some not so much. Dementia in itself is an ugly disease. But there are different types of dementia, and yes Alzheimer’s is under the umbrella term of dementia.
My mom wasn’t labeled a particular type, but from how she is, I would assume she has Alzheimers. She doesn’t have the markers for what goes on in the other types. I have friends who are taking care of loved ones with Fronto-temporal dementia (FTD), one of my band mentors had Parkinsons disease, my grandmother had what I believe was vascular dementia. It is everywhere around us.
Dementia is caused from various things. Diet and medications are the most common causes of this horrible disease.
Diet causes are from plaque build up in the brain (mainly from fried foods), high amounts of aluminum (used as an additive in cake mixes, milk formulas, and cheese and it is also found in many deodorants), many artificial sweeteners especially aspartame (which is used in many diet sodas and sugar free candy), fluoride from our water and toothpaste and these are just for starters.
Some medications have been linked to memory loss after long term use. Statins being the main one. Those include mostly blood pressure medicine. My mom was on Lipitor for many years, guess what, its one that has been named the main one to cause memory loss.
Diet is not just the main cause though. There are some that get it hereditary, some have gotten it from outside factors (chemicals and cancer just starters). Also being diabetic has been linked to a higher risk of dementia.
They way we found out about mom was it first started a year, maybe 2 years before diagnosis that her driving was getting worse, her memory started going some, but none of that was really noticeable. The doctor appointment she had before she got diagnosed, I was able to get the doctor alone and tell her that dad and I had concerns about her memory. She was repeating herself a lot and I mentioned also her driving was getting really bad. So, she gave her a standard memory test that they give to all older people to make sure nothing is going on out of the ordinary. It had simple stuff, remember certain words while she was asked other questions. One was to draw a clock, where certain cities were, where she lived, and other simple stuff and then was asked to repeat the words that were said earlier. She scored a 13/30 and it raised so many flags. After that she had ordered blood tests, urine tests, MRIs to rule out anything else that could be causing it. Everything came back normal. The day I got that call was probably one of the worst days of my life. The next worst day was the day she got her cancer diagnosis.
Dementia is an ugly disease that I wish on no one. No one is immune. The greatest minds get it (Glen Campbell, my band director that was a mentor), it knows no race, no sex, no income status. It hits people that would give their last dollar to someone, the shirt off their back, and the most amazing people in the world.
Now, I am going to switch gears to the other part of this month. National Family Caregiver month. Us family caregivers are a special breed. We take so much abuse (intentional or not) both mental and physical, financial insecurity, and more often than not, loneliness. We lose friends, we also gain amazing friends who are also caregivers and those friendships are priceless. I have made several friends who are caregivers and that makes me know I am not in this alone. Family caregivers are generally doing this job for free. We don’t get paid unless there is a miracle through insurances that pay you to become one. Some have online jobs (like the pyramid companies). I am a substitute teacher and the only reason I can is because my husband is home and can check on mom when I am gone. My dad does a lot for mom too. He works still at 75, and honestly, I think its good for him he will go crazy otherwise. He does so much for her when he gets home and on his days off. I appreciate what my dad does for her. But I know he is tired. There are days that I don’t get much sleep because I have to help her late night with dad. Us caregivers are generally zombies by the end of the day. I make sure she is ok, pain free, get her stuff if she needs it, not to hot or cold. I am in and out of the house quite a bit and that some days, it is just to much. I wear down faster from the mental and emotional than I do the physical some days. Especially when mom makes a downward slope.
I am blessed to be able to do what I can for mom. I know that there will be a day when we have to put her in a nursing home because her mobility is getting bad. She has fallen twice and both times, I have to call for a lift assist. Dad and I cannot lift her. She cannot put weight on her leg to get up due to the cancer in it. I know I do and dad probably does feel a sense of obligation to take care of her. She was by my side when I was a baby, sick, and nearly dead a few times. She cared for me when I was down, hurt, or just being a brat. She took care of us as a family, cooking meals, keeping a clean house, giving advise, and being a friend. It is our turn to say thank you.