A friend’s mom recently died of Alzheimer’s Disease. This is the closest I’ve got to this disease and her stories alternately shock and surprise me. It was only two years after the initial diagnosis that her mother is suffering from it. She never expected that it’ll all be over this quickly. Me neither. To tell you the truth, my working knowledge of this disease is so limited and being exposed to it made this “knowledge” all the more insignificant.
I know that Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease, meaning it has no cure and it worsens over time. I had no concrete experience to back this up until my friend’s experience. First it was her mom’s memory, then progressed on to her inability to care for herself.
Little by little her mom’s health dwindled away. It wasn’t serious at first. Just small things. She would get up from her seat and say she’s ready to eat her lunch now, when she has just taken lunch. Sometimes she would call her children by her siblings’ names or mismatch the name with their faces.
One recurring incident is with the statement shirt of my friend’s sister. Both girls, by the way, are lesbians. Her sister has this statement shirt that says, “My daughter’s a lesbian and I’m the last one to know about it!”. Their mom would stop in her tracks, read it and then laugh out, saying “Talaga, anak? (Really, child?)”, then she would walk away. When she passes by her daughter again a few minutes later, the same thing would happen. Her mom would read it, laugh and say the same comment! This happened at least five times in a span of an hour or two that my friend’s sister decided to change into a more “neutral” shirt.
What amazed us though was the disease’s effect on my friend’s mom’s high cholesterol and diabetes. Prior to her diagnosis of having Alzheimer’s, she is taking maintenance medicines for her cholesterol and diabetes. But after a while, her lab tests showed normal results! It’s as if she has forgotten she has any health problems at all! This cheered my friend up a bit.
My friend’s mom also underwent a change in her disposition. They keep a small store in front of their house to help with the income and to keep her mom busy and productive. People in the neighborhood noticed she started becoming more aggressive. This was before she was diagnosed. Or she would pick a fight with their helper who has been with them for more than three years. Other times, she would just wander out of the house bringing her entire money with her and lend or give it away to people, who sometimes she doesn’t even know!
A year or so before she died, her daughter’s started putting her in adult diapers. She couldn’t contain her pee or poop anymore and always had to be up after. Her hair is unkempt if no one is kind enough to comb it for her. In thses times, she has turned into such a baby, literally! Ultimately, she had to be spoonfed with rice gruel or soup, because her muscles have already atrophied.
Love and Care
A useful product that would have been very handy for them is this Magnetic Door and Window Alarm from The Disabled Shop. It would alert everyone if anyone who's not supposed to be outdoors is opening a window or a door. This would also minimize the accidents that could occur if their mom wandered out of the house without them knowing it.
As her disease progressed and she became difficult to deal with, my friend and her sister decided to transfer their mom into the care of her siblings in the province. Both sisters can’t stay around permanently because their jobs call for a lot of travelling. Their relatives welcomed their mom wholeheartedly and cared for her until the very end.
It was a good thing that my friend brought her mom to a doctor and was diagnosed. Otherwise, all these symptoms would just be chalked up as the generic “pag-uulyanin” and not given the attention and understanding that the patient deserves.