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When Alzheimer's knocks at your door

November 27, 2009|By Lloyd "Pete" Waters

The old woman, who lived alone, was sitting at her kitchen table looking out the window. She didn't know what day it was, even though the calendar was hanging on the wall next to the window. She couldn't remember whether she had eaten her cereal five minutes earlier, even though the bowl was in the sink.

The woman would sit at the table for a very long time until she became restless and begin to wander around the house.

The telephone would not ring ... few would care about the problems she was experiencing.

Not many visitors would come to see her. Her daughter in another state would deny her mother's increasing medical problems and completely ignore her situation.

The old woman's ability to keep track of the many pills she had to take, the preparation of her next meal and even basic hygiene matters would go undetected or purposely ignored.

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The kids would simply conclude that Mom would be better in a few days, weeks or months.

The hours of loneliness of the old woman living by herself would begin to make her life miserable. She would cry often. Confused and helpless, she would call out for help, but no one would answer.

Alzheimer's has knocked at this lady's door and she has begrudgingly let him in.

Although healthy in appearance, the old woman's mind soon will be leaving with him.

It is estimated that some 5.3 million Americans currently have Alzheimer's. It is a very harsh disease that destroys brain cells and causes severe memory loss.

Fifty percent of people older than age 85 have Alzheimer's.

Neither the victim nor the family is prepared for what will happen next.

Alzheimer's patients do not get well and cannot be cured.

It is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.

Incidents of Alzheimer's disease are predicted to double every 20 years, and it is one of the most serious medical and social challenges confronting this country in the future.

What is the typical response of a family when Alzheimer's decides to stop by a parent's house?

The person with Alzheimer's disease recognizes there are some troubling changes to one's thinking, but chooses to ignore the problem in the hopes it will leave.

The subject of Alzheimer's is not normally discussed, and plans for the future are completely ignored.

Some questions should be asked and answered if the person's future is to be managed properly.

What am I going to do if I live alone? Who will assist me in my loneliness? Who will prepare my meals or look after my finances? My hygiene? My medical appointments? My prescriptions?

Serious questions requiring serious answers.

If the person with Alzheimer's has failed to plan for this moment, there will be many trials and problems awaiting her or him.

A lack of preparation will result in many heart-wrenching and troublesome situations.

My first response might be, I don't want to go into assisted living and lose my home. Another thought might be, I want to leave something for my kids, even though they have not been there to assist me.

What will I do living here alone?

Who might the person identify to assist them in their hour of need?

Some serious thought should be given to this matter before the illness of Alzheimer's takes full control and leaves you at the mercy of a person who might only be interested in your property and not your welfare.

Often, pretending caretakers, including your own kin at times, will offer to help while taking control of your meager finances and the rest of your life medically, while totally abandoning you when you need them most.

There is a possibility that Alzheimer's will one day knock at your door. You won't be able to ignore his knock.

He will be a most difficult visitor and thief.

Before he steals your complete ability to think, establish a plan to make your life as comfortable as possible. Don't wait. Seek out a mature and caring person to help manage your affairs and care for you before you can no longer care for yourself.

This could be the most important decision of your life.

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail

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