Yesterday I went to a morning’s workshop by Teepa Snow, a 30 year specialist in geriatrics with emphasis on Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. What I took away was concrete information and affirmation of what I am observing in Mother.
Among the interesting statistics is the prediction that within the next 15 years, half of all American families will either know or be involved with the care of someone with dementia.
Yes, I knew that dementia was chronic, progressive, and terminal. What I didn’t know is that it usually begins 15 years before the first symptoms show up, because of the brain’s amazing ability to compensate. And that death usually occurs 8 – 10 years AFTER the first symptoms.
From what I understood, Mother is is the late middle stage of dementia, described as parts of the brain actually dying. It’s much more than short term memory loss. Teepa said the left temporal lobe, the last to fully develop in a child, is the first to go.
She is still able to chit-chat superficially, but can’t maintain it more than four or five sequences. She remembers the words to songs, familiar prayers, can still count to five in German, and lately enjoys my reading nursery rhymes to her.
When I visited her Tuesday, she was still sitting at the dining table an hour after they had brought her lunch tray. Apparently the CNA who was supposed to “cue” her about the mechanics of eating hadn’t done her job. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to eat, she just didn’t know how to go about it. “Here, let me cut that for you and then perhaps it would be easier to eat with your spoon.”
With the “cuing,” she finished in about 15 minutes.
I put the dogs in her lap and pushed her outside. “Would you like to sit in the shade on the porch, or shall we walk around in the sunshine?”
She thought the sunshine would be nice, so that’s what we did. She likes me to talk to her, so I tell her what is going on at home. Most of the time she makes appropriate comments,though I am careful not to tell her anything that might be upsetting, because she doesn’t know how to handle it. The emotion comes out as excessive tears.
I still ask her to “dog sit” for me once or twice each visit, which means her holding them on her lap while I “have to go do something” for a few minutes. Fortunately, the dogs love her, and are quite happy to receive her doting attention.
Oh–amazingly, her hearing aid is still viable, so next week we’ll get a new ear mold made for her. I’m also taking her to a podiatrist–think the soreness on her heels might be heel spurs.
She still enjoys going out. Boredom is an issue, though where it fits in along with the inevitable loneliness and fear of having lost both control and understanding is something I don’t/can’t know.