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Postby Stargzer » Mon Apr 04, 2011 3:32 am

Posted here to keep Palimpsest on topic.

bamaboy56 wrote: ... MTC, My mother-in-law had Alzheimer's and I saw first hand the progression of this awful disease. Very sad. Near the end she had no short-term memory at all although she could recall in detail things that occurred in her childhood. The last week of her life she had no memories at all. I've always said that there are worse things than dying. Alzheimer's is one of those things.


I know what you went through. Watching a loved one with Alzheimer's and caring for them are two more of those things that are worse than dying. I think it's harder on the family than on the patient, although the confusion can frustrate the patient.

My mother had Alzheimer's, and we watched it get worse over time. She still lived at home, and my youngest brother still lived at home with her and kept an eye on her. I'm quite certain he has a Get Out Of Hell Free card waiting for him at the end of this board game. I think we were luckier than you, but not by much; she still had some older memories at the end and died at home, quickly, from either a stroke or a heart attack. She got a little argumentative at times, but probably only out of frustration. She never reached the screaming or incontinent stages, and was able to live at home until the end.

You know what it's like, but some of the others here may not. As you said, the short-term memory seems to be the first to go. After a while Mom would ask if I was married and where I lived, and did I have any children. I would tell her, and then in five or ten minutes she'd ask the same thing. All you can do is answer the questions and not show any irritation, no matter how many times you hear the same question.

In her 70s, before it hit her, she used to drive a carful of little old ladies to daily Mass, after which they'd stop by McDonalds for the Senior Coffee. When her older sister died, she would drive herself from the Washington DC area to Yorktown, VA, spend a few days going through my aunt's house, and drive back a few days later, doing this every week for several months. There aren't many little old ladies in their 70s who would drive across town, let alone across half a state!

All that came to an end. My brother had to cover the controls for the gas stove and oven so she wouldn't see them and try to cook something and then forget about it. He put directions on the microwave to remind her to take the food out of the package and read the directions. At least the microwave had a timer to shut itself off.

He had to put a sign on the front door reminding her that this was her home and not to leave without her son. She had gone out one night when Bob and his girlfriend and her daughter were on the back deck. When they left to go home they found her down at the end of the block, lost, sitting on the curb. On vacation in Williamsburg she went out and got lost, so they had to put heavy chairs in front of the doors at night so she couldn't move them and go out by herself.

One day when I was there we spent several hours on her back deck. She liked it and asked whose house it was, and we kept telling her it was hers. When she finally went back inside, into the living room where she spent all her time, she didn't recognize it and didn't know where she was.

Finally, one morning I got a call from my brother about 2:00 am that she had died, sitting on the couch while he was in the bathroom. At 85 it was probably a heart attack; years before she'd had a quad bypass (and later, two total knee replacements, one at a time. We called her the Bionic Woman.). She was still watching over us, though: a week or two later I got stopped for speeding but was let off with a verbal warning. I walked back to the cop and told him my mother had just died and she must have been praying for me. :- )

About 10 months later I got another 2:00 am call from my brother, and I'm wondering "Now what?" This time it wasn't him but his girlfriend on his cell phone, telling me he had a heart attack. Four stents and a lot of IV drugs later and he was back in action. She was still watching out for her boys.

I didn't cry when she died. I tell people it's because I have all the emotions of a box or rocks, but in this case I think it's because I knew she'd already been gone for several years. That's why I think that watching a victim can be harder than being the victim.

"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."
-- Attributed to Richard Henry Lee
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