It looked as if we’d end up in the ER again yesterday, but Mom flatly refused to go. So today, I am cooking with abandon and we will be transporting our feast to their apartment to give thanks together.
I thought I’d take a moment to wish everyone who stops by a truly blessed Thanksgiving. May you have much to be grateful for!
Why I Do the Things I Do
Frozen water was everywhere. Another polar vortex had arrived turning November into January in one blast of frosty air.
Of course, I could not stay inside and keep warm sipping cocoa. My mother-in-law had been hospitalized and was being released that day…in a snow storm. I had been shoveling for four hours. First, to clear off the walks and steps, then to clear the front of the garage door, and then to dig out a path in the alley to get the car to the main street. The snow was wet and heavy and I was feeling my age.
But perseverance paid off. I broke through to the street. It was now time for a cup of tea and a breather. Time to try to pull myself together for the next part of the day. Getting Mom discharged, bundled up, into the car and back to her apartment. This time, I was leaving Dad at home. Dealing with dementia and a blizzard plus transporting Mom with an oxygen tank was too much for me and I had to draw the line somewhere. The left side of my back was starting to throb.
We could have transported Mom home in an ambulance, but she had gone into the hospital in her nightgown and I didn’t want her exposed to the extreme cold. She needed warm clothes and a warm ride. When I called to check on the discharge process, she was talking to someone from rehab, so I told her I’d be there in a couple hours and rang off. Experience told me that when leaving a hospital, it would take hours for every department to sign off so I didn’t hurry. As long as the nurses knew someone was coming everything would be good.
Sitting down with my cup of tea, I asked myself, why was I doing this? Why was I working so hard to make it to the hospital as the snow kept coming down? It had occurred to me as I was lifting that final heavy shovel full of snow that no one would do this for me. My husband would find a way to get me home, make no mistake, but he wouldn’t shovel out an alley to do it. I have no kids, nephews or nieces or even cousins that would do this on my account. My friends all have problems of their own and wouldn’t be able to expend themselves like this. I pondered on this as I sipped my tea.
John 15:13 (NASB) says, ‘Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.’ I had done this as a sacrificial act of love. While I love my mother-in-law, this was really for my husband. He’s been stretched as thin as I’ve ever seen him between long hours at work and caring for his parents, and though I’ve been doing a lot to help and I love them, too, I don’t have the same history or memories that he does and I’m not grieving the same way he is. This was a laying down of time and effort to show my husband he is not alone in his care journey for his parents and to bring him encouragement.
Sacrifice. It makes life richer. I should do it more often.
Hope and a Future
When I took my mother to a neurologist to get a complete workup on her memory issues, the diagnosis came with a thud. Alzheimer’s. While Mom sat there unfazed, I was left feeling hollow inside as a variety of emotions fought for control. The doctor looked at me and said rather casually, “You have nothing to worry about. This isn’t the hereditary kind.”
Nothing to worry about. Is that so? When Mom was diagnosed, the numbers showed that one in twelve adults were developing some sort of dementia. Over ten years later the numbers are now one in six. It may not be hereditary, but there is certainly an epidemic happening that can affect anyone.
I have long suspected that something is up environmentally or behaviorally that is causing the increase in the occurrence of Alzheimer’s. In 2005, a study by Susanne de la Monte's group at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, identified a reason why people with type 2 diabetes had a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's. In this kind of dementia, the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory, seemed to be insensitive to insulin. Not only could your liver, muscle and fat cells be "diabetic" but so it seemed, could your brain.
Feeding animals a diet designed to give them type 2 diabetes leaves their brains riddled with insoluble plaques of a protein called beta-amyloid – one of the calling cards of Alzheimer's. Scientists also know that insulin plays a key role in memory. Taken together, the findings suggest that Alzheimer's might be caused by a type of brain diabetes. When I heard of this study it felt that my suspicions were confirmed.
Because my mother and now my father-in-law developed dementia, I find myself trying to keep up with the latest research on the problem. There is very exciting news that has come out on a study that actually reversed memory loss. Dr. Dale Bredesen has had a very promising results with ten patients who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Of the ten, nine had their dementia reversed. The tenth was actually in late stages of the disease. The doctor is optimistic but does warn that the results are anecdotal and a more controlled clinical trial is needed.
Still, it is an interesting and encouraging approach. He has developed a protocol and personalizes it to each patient. In one patient, the program called for a gluten free diet with increased vegetables, fruits and non-farmed fish, stress reduction, taking melatonin at night, getting eight hours of sleep each night, optimizing oral hygiene, fasting 12 hours between dinner and breakfast and for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime, and exercise. Another patient added coconut oil, probiotics and turmeric to the mix. If you are interested in reading the paper, you can find it here: http://impactaging.com/papers/v6/n9/full/100690.html
Be warned, it is pretty technical, but if you scroll down to the case studies you’ll see more of the protocols followed.
I look forward to hearing more about this research. In the meantime, I’m looking at my own lifestyle and seeing where I can improve my health habits. Dental floss, anyone?
Sorry about the link. It should be working now.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.