Pay Attention

Pay attention. 

I don't think folks, especially over the age of sixty-five, pay enough attention to what they do, which causes a lot of unnecessary problems. When was the last time you walked in the front door and later can't remember what you did with your keys?  Where did they go? If you're of a certain age, the first thing that might come to mind is dementia. 

Is it possible you just weren't paying attention and it had nothing to do with dementia? I suggest you put a hook on the wall, next to the front door, and make it a habit of leaving them there when you walk in.

Not paying attention can take us to a lot of places we might not want to go.  The worst is the fear of getting Alzheimer's or dementia. If your parent had either one, you think about when it could happen to you. I think about it every day. 

My mom had Alzheimer's and my dad had severe dementia. I moved back home to New Orleans to be their caregiver. I wrote a book about my experiences called Mama, I’m Here. I don't have answers to all the questions, but I have some of them and I'd like to share a few with you.

Alzheimer's is a very severe form of dementia. If you walk out the door and can't remember where you are or how to get back home, Alzheimer's is a very real possibility. If you can't remember the names of your children, or recognize them, then Alzheimer's is a real possibility.   

If you want to scare yourself you can have an MRI of your brain, to detect the Alzheimer's plaques. In the near future, there will be blood tests to tell you if you have Alzheimer's – or if it's in your future – but I don't want to know.

A wise person once told me not to worry ahead of time about something that may not happen. I used to believe that God didn't give us more than we could handle but being a caregiver really pushed that envelope. It might for you, too. Just remember this is the last time you will have with your parents. 

You're talking to someone when suddenly you can't remember the name of that person, something you're talking about, or a place. That could just be getting old if you remember ten minutes later or even not at all. Use other words to describe it. That's what most of us do. 

My mother died first. No one dies of Alzheimer's they die of opportunistic diseases that come their way. If you lose the ability to sit, stand, walk, talk, or feed yourself, pneumonia can quickly set in. You don't die of Alzheimer's; you die of pneumonia, a stroke, a heart attack, a fatal fall, or an accident.

My dad, who had dementia, would ask, "Where's Mom?" I would answer, "She's shopping.  She'll be home soon." There was no way I would tell him she died two months ago. He would forget and repeatedly ask the same question. This works with someone who has dementia. If they have Alzheimer's they don't ask questions.  But they sometimes have moments of clarity where they know exactly where they are and what is happening.

I remember being in the kitchen and my mother was coloring in a book. This was a woman who, in her lifetime, started her own successful accounting firm. A strong, once vital woman. Now she looked right at me and said in a very clear voice. "This is a heck of a way to live." Then her eyes glazed over and she was gone again into her own world.

If you're the caregiver and become overwhelmed, check out day care places. Some of them are wonderful. I went to one that offered vegetable gardening in the courtyard and a quiet library where the patients, during their music time, sat in recliners and listened to soothing classical music.

If you see ahead of time that you're headed for a nursing home, in your later years, then talk to insurance companies about assisted living right now. In your thirties, the cost per month is very reasonable. If you wait until you are in your late sixties, or seventies, the insurance premiums are very high.

Assisted living, mild and advanced Alzheimer's and dementia care, in a very good nursing home, is very expensive unless you have assisted living added to your policy.

It’s always hard to think about these things when they seem so far away, but experience some stress now for peace of mind in the future. 

God bless and take care.