THE HEARTBREAK OF ALZHEIMER'S
MARY AlZHEIMER'S UPDATE June 11, 2021:
While working on Life Over 56 this morning my mind drifted back to when I played a trombone solo in front of my junior high school in the auditorium titled "Whispering Hope" in 1957. Then reality struck when I realized she never knew about it and I could not share it with her. Unfortunately her fondest memories are gone forever like an erased computer file. This picture of her having lunch in her nursing home is a little misleading. She can eat a little bit, but she needs help eating after a while. Her picture reminds me she is still here and still my wife. It is difficult for me to go on as thoughts roar in my head, but I must be keep going for Mary and all of the trials and tribulations we have been through.
MEMORY & ALZHEIMER'S: February 21, 2021; after 40 years of marriage, my wife was taken to the hospital after a bad fall. She had Early-Onset Alzheimer's for quite some time. It was decided that she needed to go to a nursing home. The hospital arranged for her to go to a nice nursing home near the top of a beautiful hill.
About three a half years earlier, she began making mistakes on the paperwork for her job. Fortunately, I was able to help her for a while, however, she continued to make more and more mistakes. Finally, I took her to the doctor where they gave her a short memory test. It was not good, but it was not all that bad either. Over the next year her cognitive abilities (the ability to remember, understand & reason) continued to decline. About two years ago at another doctor's visit, they recommended a neurologist who did an extensive battery of tests. She passed all of them except the short memory test. The neurologist said that we know what is wrong. Now "all we have to do is put a name on it." On the next visit, the neurologist diagnosed her as having moderate memory loss due to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's.
I was in shock. I tried my best to find out how long it would be before she was gone. I always got the same answer. All Alzheimer's patients are different. There is no way to predict the outcome because factors affect each patient differently. I tried to get a range, and I got one patient could live for 20 years and another patient not more than a month.
I asked him to give me a diagnosis in writing so I can apply for social security disability for her. When the application came up for review, my wife was sent to a specialist for evaluation. The specialist's report was conclusive, she subsequently qualified for disability benefits.
She started to fall and one was pretty bad. They put her on generic Aricept (donepezil) and later memantine to improve memory function. Several months later her heart rate was occasionally going below 50-beats-per minute and she started passing out. After a few days in the intermediate care unit at the hospital, they determined that the donepezil was the cause. They took her off of it and she seemed to be doing better for a while, then it got worse again. The heart issues started up again. So memantine went bye-bye. Again, everything seemed OK for a while.
But, several months later she started to walk around or just walk off. I asked her where she was going and she replied, "Just taking a walk." I put an automatic chime doorbell inside the house by the front door, so if she tried to walk off it alerted me so I could make sure she did not get lost.
Months went by and everything was better. Then, I notice her voice started getting lower and softer. After a while I could no longer hear her. I thought she was mute. Other people said they could hear but I could not. She could no longer bathe, feed herself on her own and she could not even dress herself.
I asked her nurse practitioner to recommend a hospice for her. Several weeks later she was accepted for hospice services.
This went on for a month or so until February 21, 2021. We went to Lowes and she fell on a pile of snow. After she was taken to the emergency room for about three days, it was decided that my wife needed to be placed in a nursing home. They made the arrangements and astounded me by sending her to a very nice nursing home near the top of a beautiful hill overlooking the valley.
The hardest part of visiting her in the nursing home is she looks like a figure in a wax museum. She looks at me but she is not there. My deepest fear was that I might pass away in the middle of the night and she would starve to death before anyone found her because she could no long feed herself without help and no one would find her in time.
Here my wife has Alzheimer's and I had cancer removed in December of 2014 and I am fine. One would think my Malignant Mucinous Cystic Neoplasm of the Pancreas, (Pancreatic Cancer), is the most catastrophic diseases on the planet, but it is not. It is Alzheimer's with very little hope of a cure in the near future.
Today, My wife is still in the nursing home. I only wish she could read this, but she cannot. I Miss my Mary!