Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Difference

Betty Jane
 I remember when I was dealing with mom's memory loss someone asked me, "Is it Alzheimer's or Dementia?"  I said it was memory loss and I didn't know which one.  At the time I was a little annoyed and thought the question was insensitive.  Now that I am dealing with Scott's memory loss I would be able to explain the difference.  Mom's memory loss began in her mid to late 60's.  Scott's memory loss began in his early 60's although I think there were numerous times before that that he struggled with memory issues. When I talked to a doctor when mom went into the original assisted care facility she said to me,  "Your mother is in excellent health, do you understand what that means?"  I said I did and she repeated again, "Do you know what that means?"  A little annoyed I responded, "YES, it means she will live a long long time in a stupor of thought!"  Dementia wasn't the cause of her death she actually had a stroke and died as a result of that.  The dementia definitely played a part in her death but she could have lived much longer if that hadn't happened.  

With Alzheimer's the prognosis is 7 to 10 years from the start of the disease.  Although Scott wasn't diagnosed until last year I definitely saw the signs of early onset Alzheimer long before we went on our mission.  I think we were all surprised by how quickly he went from early onset to moderate stage Alzheimer's.  That was because I was hoping his issues were something other than what is actually turned out to be.  With mom's dementia she slowly shut down (much like depression) and then she slowly let her mind go back in time to when she was younger.  Everything was from when she was much younger.  Scott cannot go back in time.  We can drive by our old house, a school he worked at, city hall and they would mean nothing to him.  My mom lived in her past and for Scott there has become no past.  He thrives on order where my mom was very comfortable going with the flow.  She had a healthy appetite much of the time but one day said she didn't want to eat and didn't from February until she passed away in June.  Scott doesn't refuse to eat but he is continually eating less and less.  My mom loved food (especially Mexican food!) but Scott eats to survive.  If I didn't make sure he ate I don't think he would eat much at all.   Anything hot or spicy gets him really upset and once the food is sat in front of him he eats like a squirrel stuffing his cheeks.  He finished many times before I even sit down to eat with him.  

Mom slowly went to a safe place where she felt contentment.  Scott has no contentment.  He has no connection to anyone or anything.  I think I would describe what happens to him is like looking in the old kaleidoscope.  Remember how you would twist the end and the beautiful design would change.  For him as you twist, the picture slowly disappears as the circle gets smaller and smaller until there is just a dot. Alzheimer's disease will eventually take him away from me and the painful reality is that it is moving very quickly to that end.  

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