Happy Sunday, February 23, 2020
Good morning on this beautiful Sunday! I hope you are all doing well. If you find yourself struggling, not feeling well, stressed, depressed or just not content, then it is time to change your life. Today is the best time to start living. Happiness is created within us, for us and by us. It is not something we buy or receive from others. It is our responsibility to maintain and share. It is all up to you to make it happen. If you need a helping hand, reach out. I’m here if you need me.
Life goes by so quickly. Please do not let it pass you by.
I want to share an Alzheimer’s story. It is my mother’s current story. I spent this week visiting my sister, family and friends in the bay area. Our mom lives in an Alzheimer’s care facility there. She has been confined to this institution for over three years. This is a disease that continues to debilitate her daily. It is extremely sad and difficult to watch her wither away, as it claims her mind and body. The progression has robbed her of her memory, her ability to control bodily functions and her desire to partake in activities and life. She still feeds herself, although eating is not a priority. She is semi mobile with a walker; but walking or going outside to enjoy the beauty of nature is no longer a desire.
Here is a brief synopsis of Alzheimer’s disease. It is a disease where brain cells progressively degenerate. Alzheimer’s typically follows certain stages which will bring about changes in the person’s and family’s lives. Because the disease affects each individual differently, the symptoms, the order in which they appear, and the duration of each stage vary from person to person. In most cases, the disease progresses slowly, and the symptoms of each stage may overlap, often making the move from one stage to another quite subtle.
The early stages for my mom seemed quite mild and not immediately evident. My parents were living in a senior apartment building shortly before my dad died. I always believed she was the person ensuring everything in their lives was in balance. It was easy to see after his death that he was taking care of her. My dad was my best friend. I saw or talked with him on the phone daily. I knew his mind was sound and strong until the day he died. After his passing, I would visit her monthly, staying four or five days at a time. I would bring our dog and just hang out. She enjoyed having us there, even though my sister and her family were nearby. It was easy to recognize that her memory was beginning to change and decline. She recognized it, but there was little that could be done to delay what was coming.
Common symptoms include forgetfulness, communication difficulties, and changes in mood and behavior. People in this stage retain many of their functional capabilities and require minimal assistance. They may have insight into their changing abilities. As the disease progresses it brings a greater decline in the person’s cognitive and functional abilities. Memory and other cognitive abilities continue to deteriorate, although people at this stage may still have some awareness of their condition.
As my mother’s ability to care for herself decreased, it was easy to see additional care for her was needed. We hired care givers to assist her during the day. She began to forget about eating meals, drinking water or taking her medication. She would talk about the same things or ask the same questions throughout the day. She began to need assistance dressing and caring for herself. As time progressed the uncontrollable mood swings began; from anger to aggression. The changes were subtle in the beginning, then intensified, as she would intentionally attempt to hit other women with her walker. As these stages evolved, it became evident we needed to move her to a facility that could provide the care she required on a daily basis.
She did not understand what was happening to her or why. I would often talk with her, as did my sister, attempting to help her understand. None of this was ever easy. I don’t think she fully understood any of it. It was often difficult for me to grasp the entire concept of it all. When the decision was made to move her to an Alzheimer’s care facility, she did not want to go and did not understand why. Once the move was complete, her mood swings became less, as did the aggressive behavior. The care givers at the facility were amazing. Such kindness and compassion every minute of the day. My mom still knew who we were and remembered her past. As that first year passed, her memory faded further as the disease progressed.
As Alzheimer’s progresses into the later stages, it robs a person of everything that makes life wonderful. It has taken my mother’s memory. It has claimed her speech, ability to communicate and the ability to care for herself. She still has the ability to feed herself, but eating is no longer a normal thought or priority. She continues to lose weight and gradually dwindles away. She requires constant care 24 hours a day. The cost is astronomical. She is not confined to bed, but many days she will only leave her bed when prompted by care givers. This is typically to eat meals. Lunch is often missed because she refuses to leave her bed. She often returns to her bed immediately after her meals. This is truly a heartbreaking way to exist.
The final stages bring an increased level of mental and physical deterioration. How this evolves and how quickly varies from person to person. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease nor can its progression be reversed. Present treatment options and lifestyle choices, however, can often significantly slow the progression of the disease. There are so many debilitating and deadly diseases in our world today: including cancer, heart, coronary, stroke, blood, respiratory or lung disease, to name a few. My Dad fought MDS (a blood disorder) for nearly five years. The disease morphed into leukemia and ultimately took his life.
I wanted to share my Mother’s story with you, because there are many people struggling with significant health issues. Physical and mental health are so important to living a happy and healthy life. Take care of yourself and do whatever you can to assist others along the way. Life is precious and often too short. When I visit my mom, my emotions range from sad, frustrated, helpless, to happy I can hug her one more time. We can no longer carry on a conversation and I feel lucky if she utters one word or smiles. This visit there were no smiles, no interaction, no words or connection from her. There were only her cold blank stares. There were no hugs, no kisses or love. There is just the harsh reality of what Alzheimer’s has in store for the future. It brings with it the sadness of waiting for the inevitable.
Take the time to love yourself and love those close to you. Express your feelings and emotions openly. Don’t wait. Time rushes by far too quickly. Before you know it your opportunities may be gone forever. Be happy with who you are, follow your dreams and live a happy life. Do it today.
Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more! The healthy life puzzle is always in rotation. Let’s be healthy and strong mentally, physically and spiritually!
Thanks for your love and support! Embrace Life! Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!