Have I done him wrong?

This sentence from an Alzheimer’s Association website article jumped right off the screen at me:

Most people living with Alzheimer’s Disease are not aware of their diagnosis.

What?

“Despite…the benefits of clear and accurate disclosure,” the article continued, “[only about 45 percent] of seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s…[have been] told the diagnosis by their health care provider.” And their caregivers don’t know either. On the other hand, more than 90 percent…of cancer and cardiovascular patients do know their diagnoses.

Whoa-a!

There is still only one way to diagnose Alzheimer’s definitively and that’s through brain autopsy. If the person exhibited Alzheimer-like symptoms while alive and the brain tissue contains the microscopic physical abnormalities typical of the disease, a definitive diagnoses can be made.

Physicians can correctly diagnose Alzheimer’s disease about 90 percent of the time while the patient is alive, based on mental and behavioral symptoms, physical examinations, neuropsychological tests, and lab tests.

But there’s still no cure.

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Every 67 seconds, someone in the US develops Alzheimer’s.

Peter’s neurologist diagnosed his dementia about seven years ago. She didn’t use the “A” word, rather she said simply, “Dementia.” I breathed a sigh of relief, and when we got into the car to come home, I started crying. Peter wondered why.

“Because you don’t have Alzheimer’s,” I said, “it’s ‘only’ dementia.”

“Is that good?” he asked.

“Well, no, but it’s better than Alzheimer’s,” I said.

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By 2050, there could be as many as 16 million people with Alzheimer’s.

He asked no further questions then or since. Every now and then he’ll say his memory is getting worse, so I remind him it won’t get better. I’ve never used the dreaded “A” word, but I wonder if I should? Deep down, does he know?

Have I done my husband a disservice by not laying it out? Should I attempt to do it now? If he already knows or suspects, he would never say anything. That’s not his style. He’s always played things close to his chest.

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More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s.

Experts advise telling patients and families because
of the need to:

  • Plan for the future
  • Take care of financial and legal matters
  • Address potential safety issues
  • Learn about possible future living arrangements
  • Develop support networks

Been there, done all that, without having The Conversation. Have I done him wrong, to paraphrase a line from an old Mae West movie? I don’t know.

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I really had to look hard for something to fulfill my laugh-a-day pledge. This one works for me. Hope it does for you.

The doctor says to his patient, “I have good news and bad news.”
‘Tell me the bad news first, Doc.” 
“You have Alzheimer’s disease.”
“Oh no! What’s the good news?”
“You can go home and forget about it.”


Graphics Alzheimer’s Organization©

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

What watch?

Today is Peter’s seventy-seventh birthday. We don’t do “hoopla” anymore, primarily because he doesn’t like fuss, and also because he forgets not only his own day, but mine and every other family member’s too.

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March 1, 2008, the day Peter picked his puppy, Nobby.

Seven years ago was the last time he agreed to a family dinner. I remember because I’d fumed and worried about the present I’d decided to give him: the option of going to the Humane Society to rescue a dog or to a kennel to pick out a GoldenDoodle puppy.

Was I crazy for even thinking of another puppy? Yep! Was I surprised when he picked that option? Nope.

It was a milestone birthday, his seventieth. Even though I favored a rescue, I knew he’d had his heart set on having a GoldenDoodle since we’d first seen one the year before.

This year I went downscale. I found an inexpensive — make that cheap — watch that lights up at the press of a button. Over the years I’d given him a Mickey Mouse watch to feed his big-eared rodent fixation, plus at least three expensive watches. Somehow he managed to break them all beyond repair.

Now, though, he is obsessed with knowing the time even though he can’t remember it for more than a few seconds. He is now, and has always been, late for everything. He can’t remember that the “new” cable box we’ve had for a year doesn’t have a digital clock on it like the old one did. When he looks at the little window showing the channel, he thinks it shows the time, even if it’s a bright, sunny high noon outside and the channel number reads 838.

This new watch was made in China. I scratched that off the box, as I did the $14.99 price sticker. I “wrapped” it in a bright green envelope, put a years out-of-date birthday stamp on it, and hid it under the newspaper. When he came downstairs I heard him say Oh! when he uncovered the present. He came to me here at my desk and said, “I didn’t even know it was my birthday.”

“Really?” I said, though I was already pretty sure he hadn’t remembered. He shook his head. “Not even with my message on your dry erase board and the reminder on your calendar that’s been there all month?” I said.

“What calendar?” he asked.

“The giant white one on the kitchen counter.”

“No, I’ve never seen it.”

“Well, Happy Birthday!” I said.

“Now I have no excuse to be late, do I?” he asked, looking at his wrist.

“Yes, you do,” I said, “because you’ll forget to look at your watch.”

Later Peter came to tell me he and Nobby were going for a walk. “Won’t be long,” he said.

“I hope not, you need to help shovel snow. Do you have your watch on?”

“What watch?” he said. When I sputtered he laughed and pulled up his sleeve to show me that he did have his new watch on and hadn’t forgotten about it…yet.

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Peter didn’t want me to bake a cake for him, so I froze one in the fresh snow outside.

Header photo: Nobby protects his ball.

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

Guess who’s the top banana in our house?

At nearly 76, overripe and brown-spotted, I didn’t know that another symptom of advancing years, mine at least, is that I can no longer eat a big apple, for instance, or a large burger, and I certainly can’t eat a whole banana these days.

This morning I guillotined a banana right through its yellow-green jacket and sliced half onto a small bowl of granola. At lunch, I plopped the remaining banana half onto my husband’s plate along with his usual two-and-a-half pastrami sandwiches, carrot, pile of crisps, and hunk of Cheshire cheese.

My lunch was two pieces of cold pizza, just the toppings, no crust.

Peter ate everything except for the banana. It was still reclining across his plate, yellow peel draped elegantly across the cut end.

“Eat your banana,” I said.

“I did,” he replied.

“No, it’s still there. Look.”

He lifted the peel and peeked inside. “I hate half of it!” he protested.

“No, ate half of it. I gave you the rest.”

“Why?”

“Because I can’t eat a whole banana anymore.”

“There’s only half here.”

“Yes,” I said, “that’s the half I couldn’t eat. I put it there for you.”

“How am I supposed to remember that? That’s ancient historyI finished eating five minutes ago.

I laughed.

“I’ll eat it later.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said. “You’ll forget.”

“Forget what?” he asked. And he wasn’t kidding.

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2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

Always something new to remind him.

A bubble flood in our kitchen several years ago started a sticky note tide in our house. That sudsy event showed me that I needed to be more vigilant. It was time, past time really, to attach little reminders around the house for Peter. First were the under-kitchen-sink soaps. Then came notes on certain light switches, followed by color-coding to match keys to doors — red for one set, purple for another.

Soon, tv remote, wastebaskets, dog food bag, garbage disposal switch, bottle of hand soap, toothbrushes all had instructions stuck on or  near them.

A small dry erase board propped near the coffee maker each morning announces the day, DSC00769_2date, and year with reminders about activities and appointments for that day. Several years ago I tried an extra large calendar for Peter to fill in, but he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do it.  Calendars were useless, he complained. In truth, in years past when he wanted to keep track of things or plan a trip for instance, he did an engineering timeline. Fair enough, I never understood his timelines anymore than he understood calendar squares.

Now, once again, a large calendar resides on the kitchen counter. Difference is, I fill in the spaces and I outline significant dates in red — birthdays, Valentine’s day, Christmas, our anniversary. Waste of red ink, that idea.

Every few days Peter asks if I need something from Kroger’s. He’s always Screen shot 2015-01-17 at 4.03.05 PMliked grocery shopping and he can walk there with purpose and, more importantly, he doesn’t get lost. I give him a little sticky note, even if there’s only one thing on it. Three items are his limit, but even so, most of the time he doesn’t remember he’s got a list and will come home with an odd assortment he thinks we might need — yogurt, a few bananas, a Hershey bar. He always insists the latter must have fallen into his bag because he certainly didn’t buy it. I laugh at the thought of all those Hershey bars jumping onto the check-out conveyor and sliding into his bag.

Now, I’ve started putting bright notes inside some of the kitchen cupboards to remind him where certain things go. The salad spinner for instance. I use it several times a week. It lives conveniently in the cabinet toDSC00756_2 the left of the sink. Peter always empties the dishwasher, but lately he’s started stashing the spinner wherever he sees an empty space — in the cupboard where seldom used things reside, or maybe in the laundry room pantry. When I’m fixing dinner I do not want to look all over to find this essential tool. One day I’ll break something with all the door- and drawer-banging that accompanies my searc

I do know that washing lettuces for a tossed salad is significantly less of a problem for me than trying to cope with his tossed mind is for Peter. I try to keep that thought in my mind when I get frustrated with him over something so silly as a salad spinner.Screen shot 2015-01-17 at 3.58.28 PM

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist.