Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I've said this before, but it's worth saying it again. This is a disease of extremes.  While three weeks ago, Mummy was totally confused and didn't know where she was or why, a week later, she was able to report to the Monday caregiver something that had happened at church more than 24 hours earlier.  Lord this disease can give you psychological whiplash!

Since that Sunday three weeks ago, all has been well with the world.  No tears, no discombobulation, no confusion.  Nada. We cool.  Obviously, the day will come......but in the interim, we trudge along.  The sooner I get a new professional opportunity or start my own business, the sooner we'll get caregivers in here eight hours a day.  I've found that Mondays are the days when she is most like her old self. Perhaps it's that pride thing that kicks in and makes her stand up straight and make real conversation.  Whatever it is, it's good for her.  So onward ho.

So it is. Maybe tomorrow I'll write about the famed 'donut hole' in Medicare coverage.  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

And so it is

So here we are.  Last night Mummy had her first episode of 'sundowning'. 

Things were going along as usual, when all of a sudden, she didn't know where she was or why.  We ran out of one of her medications and it's been more than two weeks (probably closer to three) since we last administered them.  [Many requests to the doctor later, I've had to switch back to the original gerontologist, though I'm not entirely confident about his skills, but that's a whole other story right there.]  Anyway, last night I administered the outstanding pill for the first time in some time.  Some time thereafter, Mummy's brain just switched off.  It was similar to a computer crashing and then coming back online having lost everything beyond some unknown moment in time.  I don't know that the two things are connected, but I'm just logging what happened at this point.   

Usually, if there's a hiccough with Mummy's mind, we can offer food and beverage and things come back online eventually. This was not one of those events.  This time, nothing helped.  She drank two or three 8 oz glasses of water, but nothing.  She eventually went upstairs to bed (led by her granddaughter because she suddenly didn't know the house) and came back down, once, twice, confused, turned around, lost.

This episode was much, much worse than we've ever seen from her before.  As bad as it was last night, it got worse this morning because on waking we found that she didn't know either of us.  She answered when spoken to, but when prodded to express her obvious confusion, she admitted that she didn't know where she was.  My sister's typical response to this is to ask a series of questions that begin with her name, where she is and who we are.  This morning, she didn't know the answers to most of the questions asked.

This is how it goes.  The result of all this psychological drama, is that it took some time to get her into the bath and dressed for church.  We got out the door, but were quite late for church as a consequence of this morning's run in with Big Al (zheimer).  She evenutally got her feet back under her and a couple of hours later, she had no recollection of the distressing events of the morning.  Blessed forgetfulness I guess.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sickness & Shame

There's a connection between sickness and shame.  Well actually, the connection is that there are some people who see sickness as a source of shame.  They, I'm finding, make for difficult patients since they spend more time trying to cover up their illness than trying to deal with it in a healthy way.

My mother's family seems to have this affliction.  I recall several years ago, my cousin was having surgery.  We all lived fairly near to each other, indeed, he had grown up with us through our elementary school days and for several years in high school as well, and yet, when he was hospitalized, his mother never said a mumblin' word.  She borrowed the car to visit him at hospital, and in her anxiety had an accident.  I believe to this day, that were it not for the accident, we wouldn't have known that he was in hospital at all. 

Fast forward many years, and here we are at my mother's illness.  My aunt rarely calls, though she did call one time and I ran interference, so she might claim that I am preventing her from gaining regular access to her sister.  For that claim to be true though, she would have to have tried and not been allowed to speak, and that doesn't happen.  Mummy on the other hand, has this whole "stiff upper lip Jeeves" thing going.  She will wake up not knowing where she is or perhaps who we are, but "Jeeves" won't ask.  She'll sit in her room and rub her head and hope that something will come to her.  Of course, it rarely does and there is no benefit to telling her day after day that if she's confused she should just ask.  She won't remember having had the discussion the next day, nor indeed an hour later.  I do wish though that somewhere in her soul she could sidestep the shame of her confusion.  We would all be much better off.

So we plod on.  Rather than fret over the fact that she is ashamed, we simply embrace that this is where we are and plod on.  It's not always easy.  Yesterday when the strawberry  banana juice was used as milk for the cereal I had a real moment, but I stiff-upper-lipped it and moved on.  What is there to be ashamed of exactly?  We know enough about this disease now to know that there isn't anything that we can do to prevent it.  My sister and I are trying as best we can to mitigate the damage: regular healthy meals, fruit, exercise, weekly outing to the Senior Center, a granddaughter and whatever else we can come up with.  Shame has no place in this equation.  Would we be ashamed if she had cancer?  Alzheimer's disease is sad yes, but shameful?  I think not.