Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It's No Joke

This is going to sound ridiculous but I was just thinking today about how my Mom and I used to joke about Alzheimer's. This was way, way back, like in the late 80s-90s. But it's embarrassing to admit that we joked about it. If one of us would have a lapse of memory, lose something, or forget a name, we'd joke that the Alzheimer's was setting in. At one point my Mom got on this big "anti-aluminum" kick. Supposedly somebody somewhere said that too much aluminum caused Alzheimer's. I don't even know what foods aluminum are in, but she would always caution us. We'd usually giggle and roll our eyes.

We teased Mom a lot about all her "health tips". When she'd start babbling about the latest supplement, we'd laugh and say "Here comes another one of Momma Von's Health Tips." Nobody ever had the nerve to come out and say it, but she didn't have much credibility with us because she was blatantly ignoring the biggest "health tip" of all - to lose weight and exercise. Thinking back, I am amazed at all of the different supplements and potions my Mom took for various things. None of this was prescribed or even recommended by a doctor. Mega doses of Vitamin C and Vitamin E. This nasty mineral thing she would drink. Some pills called "Vital Veggies". Liquid "oxygen" drops. There were hundreds of things I can't even remember the names.

For quite some time she would stir this yucky green powder into her juice in the morning, it was called "Barley Green". As she would stir it in and drink it down, she'd say to me "This here is BRAIN food, taking this will keep me sharp as a tack in my old age." I even was so convinced I took it for awhile. When we'd go out for dinner she'd get out a big baggie of all of the pills she had to take. Mind you, she was not a prescription pill junkie, or a diet pill junkie. She was, well, a "supplement and miracle cure" junkie.

When she had a heart attack and made it through a triple bypass back during that big power outage in August 2003, she attributed her ability to get through it to all these supplements. She'd say "I hadn't taken all those healthy things, I wouldn't have made it." But what about the heart disease that caused the heart attack in the first place, Mom? What caused that?

I am just now drawing a parallel between her blocking out the fact that her weight/diet/activity level was the cause of her heart problem, and her blocking out any admittance that she has Alzheimer's. Back then, she knew very well that she was overweight, and couldn't cope with it, so tried to compensate with all the pills and potions. I think once she realized that she was headed down the Alzheimers path, she followed the same pattern of not being able to cope with it, so just ignores it all today. She doesn't even take the medications on a regular basis. So sad.

That's got to be what happened. Only a few short years ago, when both of her parents were suffering from Dementia and Alzheimer's, she would constantly fill me in on stories about them. How bad things were getting for them, how sad it was to "lose" a parent, but still have them there, how hard it was to see them that way. Dozens of times she'd laugh nervously and say, "Geesh, I hope that never happens to me." And I thought the same. But I thought it would be years before any of us would ever have to worry about such things.

Little by little, I saw her withdraw from them. The visits because less and less frequent. The visits were replaced by checks that she would give to her sister to buy things for her parents, in lieu of a visit. Then she started saying she was "too old" or "not well enough" to make the trip to the nursing home. And finally there was the turning point that I mentioned way back at the beginning of this blog, my grandpa's death. By then she had stopped talking about anything. She was cold and distant when talking about him. She seemed to remember only the bad stuff about his illness and all the good stuff just seemed to have faded away. By the time Grandma passed awaya year or so later, she almost matter-of-factly told me about it, like it wasn't a big deal. By this time she must have been heading down the path herself, and knowing it.

Nowadays, she doesn't even realize her parents have died. She asks to go see them, but doesn't really talk about them, no happy memories, no nothing. And when we tell her that they are not here anymore, she just nods and jumps to a different topic. I haven't hear her utter a word about Alzheimers or Dementia in the past few years. The playful teasing is gone now that the disease had taken hold.

Nope, this is definitely not funny anymore.

No comments:

Post a Comment