Over the past 8 years, my family has been dealing with signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s in my Mom who is now 86. Initially, with her forgetfulness and not recognizing someone right away, we thought, you know she is getting old; she is entitled to not being right every now and then, heaven knows we forget from time to time ourselves. But the frequency of these signs started occurring on a regular basis. My Mom was initially taken to a geriatric psychiatrist in NH where she lived. The Dr. prescribed a drug called Aricept, the one you see most of the time on TV commercials. This drug with its popularity sounded promising, but after a couple years of trying this medication, there were no significant signs of improvement. She also suffered many of the side effects associated with this medication i.e. dizziness, upset stomach, nausea, trouble eating, and sleeping disorders.
In 2005, my Mom desperately needed knee replacement surgery on her right knee Büroreinigung Göttingen. The operation was successful; however, there was a drastic change in my Mom’s memory and behavior. My Mom would hide her purse and wallet, thinking everyone wanted to steal it. She could never remember where it was hidden and would accuse family members of taking it. In addition to the stealing and hiding, she became very paranoid. She needed all the window shades drawn and the outside doors locked late in the afternoon everyday. The level of anxiety and agitation she displayed became more heightened. She would get up and down from her chair to check the windows and locks and repeat herself over and over asking everyone if the doors were locked. Just in general, she was up and down and would never stay still for any period of time. She was like the Ever Ready Bunny, i.e. she kept going and going. I was exhausted just watching her and I am 35 years younger. She had always been physically active walking and exercising. She took good care of herself eating right, baked or broiled, chicken and fish and lots of vegetables. She religiously took her vitamins and supplements every morning with a bowl of homemade oatmeal sprinkled with bran on top, a glass of half prune and half orange juice mixed together, yogurt and a cup of coffee.
My Mom was an old-fashioned cook, making everything from scratch. Her nickname was Betty, aka Betty Crocker, making sure there were three balanced meals made everyday with desserts. These meals were not your simple toast and coffee. I am talking bacon and eggs, homemade blueberry muffins, pancakes, homemade oatmeal, percolated coffee, roast beef sandwiches from the prior night’s dinner for lunch with homemade soups, homemade cookies, then homemade spaghetti sauce and spaghetti for dinner with bread, salad and more desserts, like apple or blueberry pie with ice cream. For the holidays, she out did herself making numerous cakes, pies, breads, cookies, fudge, and other various desserts along with all the main meal’s homemade items. She made enough food to feed an army, our family, friends and neighbors. If you can believe it, we were all pencil thin, the good old days for sure. This cooking exercise was my Mom’s regular routine for over 60 years until Alzheimer’s hit. At that point, she had difficulty remembering how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Also as part of my Mom’s regular routine, she cleaned, cleaned and cleaned, using Ammonia, Clorox, Pinesol, Lysol, Windex and Pledge. Did your love one use any of these products? I sometimes wonder if there is a link with these products or a combination thereof and Alzheimer’s. Or is there a correlation with the bleached sugar used in all the desserts we ate? Or the Crisco and butter?
Back to the surgery, a few year’s after the surgery, I learned that being heavily sedated, i.e. under anesthesia can cause Alzheimer’s to progress more rapidly. I had also heard in more recent years that if surgery is necessary in an Alzheimer’s patient, inquire on whether or not a spinal block could suffice or if there are various levels of anesthesia, maybe a lower dosage. My Mom required a second knee replacement in 2008. This surgery advanced the Alzheimer’s to an almost uncontrollable state with full-on hallucinations and delusions, screaming fits. My Mom after surgery didn’t believe she was in a hospital or that she had been through surgery. With all the wires and monitors, she thought someone had pulled her house apart and was doing construction. She screamed that she was going to sue for wrecking her house. She yanked out her IV and next tried her catheter. While in the hospital, 24/7 nurse bed watch was required. I believe that her pain medication OxyContin attributed to her crazy uncontrollable behavior. We had never seen her in this psychotic state. That medication in my mind was not for her. After being released from the hospital and into a nursing rehabilitation center, she gained control of some of her senses but not all. A doctor at the rehabilitation facility introduced more sedating medication like Seroquel and Lorazepam. Her downtime from this surgery seemed miraculous. She was capable of walking almost instantaneously with no pain. I believe that the Alzheimer’s numbed that part of the brain in charge of pain, no brain no pain. My Mom continued on low doses of Lorazepam,.5 mg and Seroquel, 25-30 mg. These medications were used to quiet her symptoms of agitation and anxiety which occurred late in the afternoon and early evening. These symptoms later became known to us as the Alzheimer’s symptoms for sundowning. Going from light to dark triggers a reaction in the brain that causes agitation.
For the next year, my Mom’s legs strengthened, but her mind and behavior declined. The decline may be attributed to insufficient social interaction. I have been told that social interaction for Alzheimer patients is very beneficial and therapeutic, adult daycare centers specializing in Alzheimer’s is a good avenue to pursue. Seek daycares that have programs involving physical exercise, mind games, eye, hand coordination activities e.g. arts and crafts. Also, ensure that the facility has some type of security or wander band should your loved one become confused and walk away.
My Mom, on the other hand, was being watched by only one family member and received limited visitors. In March 2009, my younger brother and I became jointly responsible for my Mom’s health which at that time, I brought her to CA. I was eager to have her here, because I felt that California’s medical care surpassed that in many other states. My belief is based upon our elderly population. We have a greater population due to our weather and state size. CA also has the greatest number of doctors of any state due to size. I am also surrounded by many retirement communities.
One notable event that occurred while travelling by air from Boston to Los Angles, half-way through our flight, my Mom flipped out. What I mean is, she started screaming, swearing, kicking, hitting and pulling my hair. She got out of her seat and started aggressively charging towards first class. She thought she was at a job that she held more than twenty years ago. She wanted to speak to the bosses because she didn’t know where all the products went that they had made. With the assistance of 4 flight attendants and paging a doctor, my Mom was brought back to her seat but would not sit down; they walked her up and down the aisle to calm her. My Mom carried on for the remainder of the flight and when we started approaching Los Angeles, she would not sit down for landing. The doctor, a geriatric psychiatrist seating diagonal to us helped to seat her. We both held her down for landing. The flight attendants were going to use a straight jacket. I was never so scared or embarrassed. I thought my Mom would sleep the entire flight since I choose a direct evening flight.