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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Anxious Dependence June 22, 2014

In the early stages of Alzheimer's disease the spouse attaches him or herself to the other, tagging along, asking the same questions repeatedly, criticizing the tasks the healthy person has assumed. We label this behavior "dependence" because the person doesn't trust him or herself to perform these tasks adequately or to remember the day's agenda. 

The ability to recall is missing sooner than the ability to recognize, so the person sees what the spouse is doing and can see that it is not accomplished with the precision or expectation he or she still knows how to do.
It is at this beginning stage that the person asks about family members who are no longer here, parents and perhaps siblings who have died or live far away. Long term memory remains intact while short term memory disappears, but the confidence in one's memory is gone and  folks need the reassurance that they do indeed remember long ago events and people.

As time passes, the person really does need help showering, dressing, being driven rather than driving; sometimes these are accepted and sometimes the person fights against his or her recognizable skill diminishment.What is known or felt is not alway discussed- and consequently the spouse who has become the caregiver doesn't talk about it either. It seems easier that way.

So Alzheimer's disease remains "in the closet" and the couple continues to socialize with friends and relatives--until an event occurs that changes the balance. One husband I heard about told his wife he didn't want to be put in the position of having to entertain a friend's husband as he asks too many quesitons repeatedly and could not keep up with the conversation. The couple was not invited again. In other instances an Alzheimer's diseased person took food from a serving plate with his fingers, or used her own fork instead of a serving fork. These friends no longer invited them either, increasing the isolation of the couple and especially of the care provider.

Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia. The timing and occurrence of symptoms vary. Partners need to be sensitive to the needs of their spouses in the beginning when they are feeling so vulnerable, but need to speak up with family and close friends, to ask for help and even companionship--which occurs when the visitors know what is happening. Just as many Alzheimer's patients can "rally" in social situations for a long time, the rest of us can tolerate difference in behavior when we know what to expect. We all have anxieties, we all have areas where we feel vulnerable; sharing those feelings is human and visiting is kind.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day June 15, 2014

What do you get for a father who has Alzheimer's disease when it's Father's Day? How do we show him he's special when he doesn't even know maybe who we are?
There are the easy things like vanilla milk shakes and French fries; he likes those any day. A walk outdoors is a favorite activity for him and so is playing catch with him --until he says "enough." or moves his hand from side to side indicating "finished."

The funny thing is we can repeat the walk and the game a few minutes later and he willl enjoy both activities again. Sometimes he will draw with colored pencils or markers; he also enjoys looking at magazine pictures, turning the pages and tearing out the enclosed advertising cards which are often attached to the pages.

For all the fathers in the country who have Alzheimer's disease, use today to make a contribution to the Alzheimer's Association 
For all the fathers out there who are spending the day caring for their beloved wives, make a contribution.
For all the fathers out there who are visiting their parents, caring for their parents who have any kind of dementia, make a contribution to help fund research to discover the cure for this devastating progressive neurological condition.

For all of us who know a father who has Alzheimer's disease, phone or visit; support the family by your presence. 

There is something you can do.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

More about Trust June 5, 2014

Have you ever listened to Radiolab? I never have but I attended a program last night where award-winning co-hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich demonstrated how difficult it is to trust anyone.Check it out on

The premise of the program was to guess if you could figure out correctly whether you were going to be scammed or not. For example, if you know a stranger has been given $100.00 and the game is for him to share it with you or lose it entirely, how much would you need to receive in order to be satisfied? 
Because if you give the money back, he forfeits his share as well.
If you are the holder of the money, how much would you give so the receiver doesn't refuse it and no one gets anything?
How it turns out is important mainly to see how the audience predicted it would turn out.
As interesting as it is to see the outcome, the analysis of the audience participation was fascinating. Everyone used their smartphones to vote and the votes were also tallied by gender. Fascinating.

The next game was a real television show from England called Golden Balls. Each contestant held 2 spheres which when twisted open revealed one word each --either STEAL or SPLIT. An amount of money was to be split by the 2 participants if both chose SPLIT or stolen by one if one voted SPLIT and the other said STEAL. The stealer would get all the money. If both said STEAL, no one gets anything.

The 2 contestants had a few minutes to convince each other to split the money before they chose. Then the frame was frozen and the audience voted on what the contestants would choose. We were between 40 and 60 percent correct in guessing the outcome  because in 2 out of 3 games the money was indeed stolen.

In an age where we post and purchase so much online, we share so much with strangers, we are more vulnerable than we thought to getting scammed. And the science showed that we are less trustworthy in the US than folks are in Africa or other smaller more homogeneous societies where these experiments were also tried.

Back to last week's post, I will be less trusting in the future, choosing what I say to whom with more caution than before. How about you?