March 30, 2010

Pain of Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted in Family, Health, Knitting, Women tagged , , , , , , , at 7:14 am by Liliana

Pain of Alzheimer’s disease

Pain of Alzheimer’s disease

I had lunch with a friend last week. We had Thai food, drank strong, hot tea and talked.

She was telling me about her mother, who is experiencing early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. My friend is worried. Sometimes, her mom is perfectly fine and her worries seem unfounded. Her mom can make wonderful meals, keep the house clean, do laundry, go shopping. But then she forgets little things – the security code on the garage opener, dates and events, things that were obvious and familiar a few days ago.

My own mother started experiencing these kinds of symptoms in her late fifties. Assuming  that she was depressed, we took her from one doctor to another, but no one seemed to  know what the problem was. My mom was the most accomplished baker I knew, but now she would substitute salt for sugar in her tortes. And then, she would say that she didn’t do it – someone else had sneaked in and played a trick on her. My mom could knit such intricate sweater patterns that Jeff believed that she would have made a fine computer programmer if she had been born at a different time. But now, she could not remember how to knit. As time passed she stopped seeing her friends. She became worried and confused. She became suspicious and paranoid. Like the rest of us, she knew that something was terribly wrong, but she didn’t know what.

My sister and I tried hard to do the best we could, but when I think back on that early time, I would do some things differently. My friend was telling me how she is always trying to find the right balance between challenging her mom to do more, and accepting her state by showing patience, kindness and understanding. It is a fine line, and one doesn’t know what the right thing to do is. Everyone has to find an answer for themselves, but I think I would now err on the side of kindness. So far, there is little one can do to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s. I would take my mom’s hand in mine more frequently than ever, and show her that I am there for her, no matter what happens. Right now, reassurance and love are the only cure for dementia.

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