Dr. Oz, "America's Doctor," burns my biscuits. Recently, he and homeopath Bryce Wylde offered up what they consider to be the next revolutionary anti-aging super-food: red palm fruit oil. Red palm oil does look like a promising dietary supplement, but the miraculous anti-aging promises by Oz and Wylde never materialize in the data. We just don't have the evidence yet.
For the caregiver an early diagnosis means time to digest the news, to understand and accept the mountain of responsibilities that lie ahead. Let us hope that this diagnosis comes when your loved one is still capable of participating in a discussion about the future. There is no right or wrong way to proceed -- just what is right for you and the patient.
Back when I was young and saw an old couple in a restaurant, sitting throughout a meal without apparently offering a word to each other, I used to think, "How awful." Now, many of those who know about my husband's Alzheimer's (AD) will ask me, "Do you have any conversation at all with him?" Well, that depends on how you define conversation.
Dr. Howard Fillit, has written a booklet about keeping a healthy mind while aging. Although there is no guarantee that following the guidelines in this booklet will prevent Alzheimer's, they are not castor oil. Far from tasting bad, they will improve your life as you are living it. If they also turn out to prevent AD, that's a bonus.
Yes, when I write about how a caregiver should take care of him or herself, I am talking to myself as well as to others. I know how hard it is. For two years, I did not leave my husband. Like so many others, I postponed my own doctor's appointments telling myself I didn't have the time, and turning down invitations from friends. But firm words from two doctor friends helped me decide to take the occasional afternoon for myself.
A caregiver definitely needs to "get a handle" on his or her day. As the day begins, so it usually unwinds, and tension begets tension. I get a handle on my day by meditating. That ritual precedes the ritual of caregiving. And ritual it must be. I have found that a familiar routine is absolutely essential to a calm day -- meals, bathroom, exercise, naps, bed, at the same time every day. The pace of the day is determined by Alzheimer's.
I have found online support groups to be a tremendous help. I can turn to them any time, in the middle of the night if necessary, skim through the various postings to find the ones that have situations similar to mine. Those postings have provided me with a great learning lifeline. So, I will offer no advice. Each caregiver must find his or her own way. But over the next few postings I will share some things that have worked for me.
I don't think of myself as a caregiver -- I am a wife, honoring the vows I took so many years ago. I have had the better, and the richer -- ( speaking of experiences and not money). Now I am living through their opposites: the sickness, and the poorer -- (in this case both experiences and money: Alzheimer's is expensive).
Despite the 36 million people afflicted worldwide, there is still something of a stigma about the label. Just as cancer used to be a diagnosis whispered in close family circles so do many think about Alzheimer's. It is the crazy aunt or uncle locked away in the attic. The first reaction to the diagnosis is often, like mine, denial.
Given that we are in the neurologist's office at my request, I should not have been surprised -- no, not surprised, floored or shocked -- by the diagnosis. But I was. The doctor's visit was prompted by a cluster of seemingly small incidents. And so, my beloved husband became one of the five million Americans diagnosed with this thief of a disease. What's more for every human being diagnosed, there is a circle of others -- partners, family, friends, employers, employees -- who are also victims, robbed of memory and relationships.
It's frightening to learn that almost 70 per cent of new Alzheimer's sufferers will be women, but research today still focuses on men. Even today, at the grass roots level of research, it is the male rat that's studied because the hormones in the female rat make it too complex.That really got me thinking: if this is something Canadian women think about then obviously so do women all over the world. So the Women's Brain Health Initiative was born.
Thirty years ago a scientist named Stan Prusiner coined a new word -- prion -- which turns out to be a protein molecule that's misfolded. In many neurodegenerative conditions, something triggers misfolding. If you can interrupt that, then you stop the formation of plaques. If you stop plaque formation in a human brain, you could prevent Alzheimer's, or at least delay it.