Thursday, February 26, 2009

Living with Alzeimers

As some of you may have remembered my Mum was diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease. As her disease progresses it is becoming more difficult to communicate with her as she is unable to express herself as she once did and there has been a marked change in her behavior patterns. She has periods of extreme anger and then periods of calmness bordering on depression. Some days she refuses to eat or get up from bed and other days I find her in the dining room eager for lunch.
Around Christmas time she was transfered to the Alzheimers unit because she was becoming disruptive at night, keeping others awake. It's very difficult to see someone you love dearly deteriorate in both mind and spirit especially when they were such loving and kind people. She has made some hurtful and unkind remarks that she would never have expressed prior to this disease and I try to always keep in mind that this is really not my mum speaking.
The staff is supposedly trained to work with this population but I have issues with some of them. Mum also has Macular Degeneration and cannot see but most of the staff have strong foreign accents and since she is unable to lip read due to her blindness she cannot understand any direction they may give her. Since her mind doesn't connect with her body, she often is unable to follow commands and the accents do not help.
It is depressing to visit her, especially seeing all the other folks around her who are also in her condition only sometimes worse. Mum worked as nurse for many years and took care of folks like the ones she is with now and this has made her situation more difficult because she in her clearer moments understands what has happened.

I am quoting from a Minneapolis Star Tribune headline this morning. " Gagne case: Death ruled a homicide." This case is about a local and maybe national wrestler who was born and raised here. He is a great and kind man who always contributed to our community a true gentleman and humanitarian. He also suffers from Alzheimers disease and was placed in a memory loss facility. He shared a room with another patient, a 97 year old gentleman who was a musician and scientist and who fled from Nazi Germany in 1936. Apparently Gagne(perhaps thinking he was still wrestling) picked up Mr.Gutmann and body slammed him to the floor, broke his hip and suffered a head injury. He was released from the hospital but passed away shortly after. His death of course has been ruled a homicide (in pure terms) and the death is being investigated by the police department. Mr Gutmanns wife feels Gagne cannot be held responsible due to his Alzheimers Disease and feels it would be inhumane to prosecute him. Apparently he is still in good physical condition but his mind is basically gone.
This is a tragedy for everyone involved and demonstrates the horror of the disease and the need to find a cure.
As a side note, we knew Gagne my husband knew him and when I was young my father would take me to a few of his matches. He wrestled pure, long before the modern day wresters with all the gimmicks. A good man but a sad ending.


an average patriot said...

Gee Minnesota I was going to say glad to hear from you and I am. I am sorry about your Mother and all the rest you talked about. It is a horrible disease and my thoughts are with them.
My next door neighbor has it and forgets the names of his kids but has not developed to the points you express. If or when he does I will be there for him and his wife.

Jeni said...

Altzheimer's is the only disease I truly fear. Cancer, heart disease, MS, ALS -any others do not strike fear into my heart (and mind0 as does this one. My grandfather, who I absolutely adored, had dementia or hardening of the arteries as it was usually called then (possibly it was Altzheimer's but just not called that then) and it is one of the worst things I think I've ever witnessed -to watch this strong, very intelligent, very quiet, soft-spoken man, lose his mental capabilities, slowly at first, then picking up speed. I dread the thought I might end up like that someday, not knowing myself, my kids, grandkids, friends, etc., not understanding day-to-day tasks, necessity, even right from wrong.
And the thought of anyone I know -whether in the "real" sense or "virtual" (as in blogging friends) having to cope with the sorrow alone this illness brings, my heart aches for you and anyone else dealing with this debilitating disease. It robs not only the individual but everyone around them too of so much. This is one illness that I really wish the medical and science communities could find something to keep the deterioration at least at bay as long as possible while searching for a potential cure. May you have as much peace as is possible as you go down this long road with your Mother.

the walking man said...

I think I would point out to the damn staff at the facility it is their responsibility to communicate to the patient more so than it is the patients responsibility to understand unintelligible language.

MB..Watching them we love deteriorate isn't easy but we get through by using that same love we learned from them who now need our support.

Best of heart friend.

Dianne said...

I seem to follow Mark in comments a lot - which is good - since he says what I want to say only better.

I send all the hugs there are my friend

dr sardonicus said...

Good to hear from you again. It's hard to see a loved one go through what your mother is going through right now. My prayers are with you.

Heck, Vern Gagne, he was big-time! I remember him from when I was a kid, back in the 60's and 70's. Sad story.

Minnesotablue said...

Average Patriot. Seems as though this disease affects every family. Be there for your neighbor as I know you will
Jeni: Thank you for your very kind words. Kind words have a way of lessening the pain.
Walkingman: Mum was always my hero. I thank you. And you are right about the language barrier but unfortunetly most of the staff in these facilities are foriegn born.
Dianne: And I will embrace those hugs.
DrS: Thank you for your prayers.
Vern was a wonderful guy. My heart goes out to both families involved in this tragedy.

Lori said...


Sounds like you have had your hands full. Having an aging parent is not an easy burden for anyone, no matter how strong you are. She is lucky she has an intelligent, educated daughter who is able to help made good decisions for her. Stay well.

Natalie said...

Why didn't you tell me you were blogging again?!

It has been tough watch grandma decline. I only see her once or twice a year so for me it is especially striking each time I see her that she has gotten worse. It has always been known among those who love her that she tends to be a little cranky, a little pessimistic. But the last time I saw her, she was almost mean. She was also so distracted by the minutiae of her life there. She had no interest in hearing about my recent move or my new job or Dean. She was completely obsessed with when the aids were going to come help to her to restroom and what was for her next meal. It was heartbreaking.

Minnesotablue said...

Lori: Thank you for your kind words

gabrielle said...

It is wonderful to read your words again. I am so sorry for the loss that you cannot name as a loss. The incremental disappearing of a dear one. Worst of all are the moments of lucidity you describe, when she realizes how everything that mattered is being erased.

I sit with Cecilia daily. Sometimes she is awake and knows who I am. Other times she is convinced that someone has cleaned out her cats. She doesn’t remember who has died and who hasn’t. Mostly everyone has. We talk about her life in the house on Lyndale Avenue with Reuben, Chris and Tom. She is convinced that she and I danced together on Lake Street. I love her as a child loves a mother. I want to cradle her from what is coming.