Tag Archives: dementia

Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias, 2019; a growing Epidemic that affects us All

 

Alzheimer’s victim     en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

My wife passed away almost two years ago, a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease. I stay in touch with the Alzheimer’s  Association because I want to keep abreast of advances and other news that pertains to this illness. Yesterday I received the 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report for 2019. Since this disease ignores all human boundaries, I thought I might share some basic info about this topic.

It is important to remember that Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia are two different things. Alzheimer’s is a form of Dementia while Dementia is a syndrome or a symptom of a cognitive disorder. There are many other causes of dementia besides Alzheimer’s disease such as Vascular Dementia, Huntington’s Disease, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, to name a few.

A football player may develop dementia from years of head trauma received while playing his sport. A retired fighter may be deemed as being “punch drunk” because dementia has taken hold of his brain after thousands of punches to the head. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease requires a special evaluation by doctors and trained psychologists in the field before the Alzheimer’s label is officially given the patient.

My wife first exhibited “forgetfulness’ during her chemo treatments in 2011. I had heard of “chemo-brain” and asked her oncologist about her chemo treatments being the cause. He could not answer and said we would have to wait and see.

It was not until the summer of 2014 when the official diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease given. And that came only after an MRI, evaluation by a neurologist, and having her and the family interviewed by two psychologists.

She lived three years after diagnosis. Some Alzheimer’s patients live up to fifteen years, especially those who are diagnosed in their early fifties. The course of the illness is unpredictable, but the results are very predictable. Alzheimer’s disease cannot be slowed or stopped. It just keeps at it until its mission is accomplished.

According to the Alzheimer’s Associations 2019 report, 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. The projected number by the year 2050 is 14 million. Every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops the disease and more than 16 million Americans, (mostly family and friends) provide unpaid care for people who have Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.

Heart disease has always held the title as being the number one killer in the United States. The good news is that between the years 2000 and 2017 deaths from heart disease decreased by 9%. At the same time deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased by a whopping 145% making it the sixth leading killer in America.

Today in America one in ten people over the age of 65 has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They have determined that among seniors who are 85 or older, 32% have the disease. As modern medications and healthy eating and cleaner lifestyles promote lengthier life spans tne number of folks living into their nineties continues to climb. Along with that comes an increase in Alzheimer’s cases.

Finally, early symptoms of dementia may include confusion about location or what day it is; poor judgment; unable to find familiar items; or simply mood and or personality changes. But PLEASE—do not diagnose someone you know and love as having dementia. Many things can cause a memory lapse or forgetfulness. We all are victims of those things. Only trained and qualified personnel can diagnose such a serious disease.

The best thing we all can do when confronted with these situations is pray hard and call our doctors.

Lastly, never forget to ask the Patroness of those with dementia and mental illness for her intercession. Her name is St. Dymphna  Click on her name and say “HI.”

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Dementia and Medication Distribution–a Daily Challenge for the Caregiver

Small pill organizer

By Larry Peterson

In America, one in ten people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s Disease. (Alzheimer’s Disease is only one of many types of dementia. There are also other types, such as Vascular Dementia or Lewy Body Dementia and many others). Please note: There is no “magic” pill that can cure Alzheimer’s Disease.

Since I was the caregiver for my wife, Marty, who had this insidious illness, I thought I could share some of my experience in dealing with the medication factor. It was a challenge, to say the least, because the meds were being constantly adjusted and oftentimes changed to something different.

Medicine distribution by the caregiver could be the most critical factor in a person’s quality of life. Medications are powerful and, if used as directed, cannot only prolong the patient’s life but can also help maintain a better quality of life for a longer period of time. Please note: There is no “magic pill” that cures Alzheimer’s Disease.

My first tip is, and I believe this may be the best tip I can give anyone: You called a plumber when you had a broken water pipe so now you have called a doctor for a damaged loved one. You need their expertise and you should expect crisp, clear answers to any questions you may have. Whether or not the patient is your spouse, child, parent, grandparent or old Aunt Lucille, never be afraid to ask a question.

Alzheimer’s Disease presents in three general stages; early stage (mild), middle-stage (moderate), and late-stage (severe). During the early stages, the patient will still be able to interact with you about the medications they are receiving. However, as time goes by, invariably these meds will change and increase in dosages. In addition, the patient will start to lose the ability to understand what is going on. That is when your responsibility begins moving into high gear especially when it comes to med distribution.

Marty suffered from several illnesses. Besides Alzheimer’s Disease, she was recovering from cancer, (Lymphoma),  had A-Fib (Atrial Fibrillation is a leading cause of strokes) and a severely broken ankle. This required the involvement of not only her primary care doctor but also an oncologist, a cardiologist, and an orthopedist. They had all prescribed different meds.

The first time you are presented with a bag of various medications it can be an intimidating experience. You look in the bag and see a bunch of vials and a packet of paperwork. The paperwork includes individual explanations and descriptions of each of the meds in the bag. Take a breath, stand each vial on the table or counter and match each one to its corresponding paperwork.

Next step is to make a list of every one of the meds, the dosage of each, and how many times a day it is supposed to be given. (FYI–the letter X denotes times per day so a 3X means three times a day). I entered my list into a word.doc format and stored it on my computer. This way it was easy to update as doses and meds were changed by the doctors. I also printed copies out and always had one with me when visiting one of the doctors or making a visit to the hospital.

The next thing you MUST do for yourself is to purchase a pill box organizer. These are (in my opinion–indispensable). Since I had to distribute meds 4X a day I purchased an organizer that had four rows of seven-day pockets with snap-lock lids. I also had an organizer that had two rows of seven pockets which I used for vitamin supplements.

Once a week, usually on a Saturday evening, I would clear the table and spread the medicine vials out. After several weeks I began to know exactly where everything was supposed to go. For example; Furosemide (a water pill aka Lasix) could only be given on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Coumadin (a blood thinner, was given in doses of  6mg  4X a week and 7.5 mg 3X a week). The pillbox organizer made it quite simple to separate these meds properly into their designated days.

Once the pill box organizer was filled I was ready for the week ahead. When Sunday morning came the routine started all over. I just had to open the Sunday morning box and take out those pills and give them to my patient. Then it was off to Mass.

©Copyright 2017 Larry Peterson