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Alzheimer’s can mean theft of a life

July 19, 2009
By CATHY BROWNFIELD, Family Recovery Center

Mama's crochet hook still created afghans. The patterns were much different now, simpler, but what she couldn't create in the advanced crochet patterns she once used, she made up for in rows of different colors to create patterns.

For the most part she was calm. But she couldn't recall how to do simple things like shutting off a light in the kitchen, whether she ate breakfast, or when to take her medications on time. She remembered things that made her angry: not being allowed to drive a car, dad's car being gone, her daughter "bossing" her around, and how her doctor had told her some while ago, "You used to have such a good brain."

Nobody wanted to put her in a nursing home, but there were safety issues.

"If there was an emergency, what number would you call?" the PASSPORT assessor asked.

"I don't know," Mama answered. "I haven't thought about that." She didn't understand that the assessor was asking her if she would call 9-1-1.

"If there was a fire at the front door and a fire at the back door, what would you do?"

"Go out a window."

"Can you cook?"


"But your family has concerns because you forget about pans and skillets on the stove and you forget to turn off the burner under the pans."

At the end of the day, long after the assessor had gone, Mama said to her daughter, "I don't want to lose my home. I raised my children here. I always thought that I'd die here."

Mama doesn't understand the lengths her children have gone to so she could stay in her home. But her daughter has been staying with her since Daddy died, and needs to be living in her own home with her husband and available to their adult children and young grandchildren.

The daughter is worried. Will Mama hate her for placing her in a nursing home? Will Mama adapt to being there? Why is it taking so long to figure out the Alzheimer's puzzle? Alzheimer's robbed Mama of her independence. Medication had lengthened her life, but what about the quality of her life? What was the culprit? What caused it in the first place? Wasn't there anything she could do about it?

On Monday, July 13, at the Alzheimer's Association 2009 Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Vienna, Austria, it was reported, "The number of people with Alzheimer's and dementia-both new cases and total numbers with the disease-continues to rise among the very segments of the population in contradiction of the conventional wisdom." Previously it was thought the numbers of people with AD or dementia was leveling off, perhaps dropping. Now, "The number of people affected by Alzheimer's and dementia is growing at an epidemic pace, and the sky-rocketing financial and personal costs will devastate the world's economic and health care systems, and far too many families," said William Thies, Ph.D., chief medical and scientific officer at the Alzheimer's Association.

The Vienna conference also addressed the causes of Alzheimer's.

"Though discoveries about Alzheimer's Disease risk factors are often in the news, adults do not know about the relationship between Alzheimer's disease risk and heart health, nor that physical activity can be protective against dementiaTwo additional studies reportedhigher Alzheimer's risk in veterans with PTSD and lower Alzheimer's risk among adults who consume moderate amounts of alcohol."

"There's a strong and credible association between heart health and brain health," advised Maria Carillo, Ph.D., director of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer's Association. She said physical activity and brain healthy diet "could have an enormous impact on our nation's public health and the cost of healthcare."

Everyone knows Alzheimer's is harder on the family than it is for the individual who has it because (s)he forgets. When the daughter looked back she could see the red flags. But in the early days, the changes were so subtle, nobody had noticed them.

Signs of Alzheimer's

-Poor judgment and decision-making

-Inability to manage a budget

-Losing track of the date or the season

-Difficulty having a conversation

-Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them

We all can do something. Visit to find out about the 2009 Memory Walk.

Family Recovery Center promotes the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. For more information about our programs, contact us at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail,



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