Who Can Help Get the Answer for Alzheimer’s? Maybe You!
True confession: It’s been quite some time since I had direct dealings with an Alzheimer’s patient. Unlike the late ‘90s when I was very hands-on in providing care for my grandparents, both of whom suffered from dementia, my role today puts me in a more educational position, supporting the caregivers rather than the dementia patients themselves.
My own “direct-contact caregiver” days were both painful and consuming. When my grandparents finally did pass away, I was very relieved for them because at last they were free from their dementia-addled minds; I also experienced a level of personal relief because it meant that my season of needing to care for them had also come to an end.
Now, fast-forward to 2021; today there are literally millions of people who are neck-deep in caring for loved ones with dementia. I confess a degree of frustration because over the last 24 years there seemingly hasn’t been much progress made in the area of dementia treatment. As I listen to my peers who are now facing their own parents being diagnosed, I realize the same techniques I learned back in 1997 to manage the moods of my grandparents are still (for the most part) the only ones being utilized today. What actions or events are necessary to facilitate a solution?
Maybe people aren’t aware there are a number of clinical trials taking place as researchers seek the answer that will finally halt the march of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association emphasizes the need for volunteers, both with and without Alzheimer’s, to participate in studies of the disease for the development of strategies for treatment, prevention, diagnosis and eventually its cure. All of the dementias are devastating—Alzheimer’s is only one of several different types—and people who have never dealt with it may not realize how shattering it can be. Here’s a small sample of what Alzheimer’s caregivers deal with EVERY SINGLE DAY.
A close friend of mine called on me for info and advice after his father was diagnosed in 2020. He and his mother had seen his dad’s repetition and agitation, forgetfulness and confusion. As time passed, they witnessed his ramped-up mood swings and paranoia, anger and utterly irrational processing.
At one point my friend described to me a pitiful conversation which took place between his parents. Husband of 57 years asked wife, “Are you my mother?” Wife said, “No, I’m your wife.” Husband responded, “I don’t have a wife.” Later in the same conversation wife told husband he was at his son’s house; husband replied, “I don’t have a son.” Later, husband was convinced wife had taken all of his money and threatened to leave, but in his state of mind didn’t seem to know where he would go.
These and other similar issues are the stuff of the Alzheimer’s nightmare. It’s an ugly disease, and we need to work hard, hard, HARD to find a cure. I encourage caregivers to talk to their loved ones’ doctors about clinical trials for research. Find out if you or your loved one would be eligible to participate. Wouldn’t it be great if we could be the last generation that has to take on the role of Alzheimer’s caregiver?