Wednesday, March 21, 2012


     Some of the symptoms, such as paranoia, delusions, depression, agitation, sleeplessness and anxiety, can be managed with a variety of medications.  It is also important to see that the patient gets physical exercise and social activities, which are vitally important to good physical and mental health.  Of course, good nutrition is also very important for the patient.
     Big Crosby died after eighteen holes of golf in Spain.  He had a massive heart attack--he died quickly with dignity.  He died after doing what he enjoyed most in life---playing golf.  What a way to go!
     This is not, however, how an Alzheimer’s patient goes.  Most Alzheimer’s patients will progressively get worse for seven years, sometimes as long as fifteen years.
     Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases both viciously attack the body.  Alzheimer’s ravages the brain and Parkinson’s attacks the nervous system.  Both conditions can reduce a big strapping man to a bent over, doddering old man with urine-stained pants.  The one thing we all dread can strike the ones you love so quickly, and there is little we can do about it.
     One and a half million elderly Americans are afflicted with Parkinson’s disease and four million with Alzheimer’s and these groups are growing.  Serious illness means that their “golden years” aren’t so golden anymore.
     Taking a loved one who suffers from either condition into your home can trap you between compassion and frustration.  Your life is disrupted by an incontinent person who is almost childlike, but one that you love dearly.  What do you do?
     You take them in and do the best you can for them.  If you have small children as well it makes the job even harder.  But at least you know they are safe.
     If you are lucky there is an adult day care center in your community that can help you during the day, and maybe a friend or two to take your patient on an outing once-in- awhile, to ease the day for them and for you.
     When the time comes that you can no longer give the care they need, then a special home becomes a place in which they are placed to spend their last months or years, away from everyone they love.  It may tear your heart right out of you, but at least you have the satisfaction of knowing you did everything you could for your loved one, no matter how difficult it was at the time.
     No matter whether the problem is Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, or simply old age, we are not responsible for the happiness of our aging parents any more than we are responsible for the happiness of our children, spouses, or siblings.  People are responsible for their own happiness. You can provide for some of their needs, but you can’t turn back the clock and make them young again.
     It is too bad we can’t all go like Bing Crosby did, quickly and with dignity.

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