- The Rock River Times - http://rockrivertimes.com -
The Second Half: Lower your risk—forget about dementia
Posted By Jim Hagerty On June 1, 2011 @ 5:57 am In Online Exclusives | No Comments
By Kathleen D. Tresemer
I heard something the other day that scared me.
I don’t like to admit being scared, and with the exception of big ugly snakes, I don’t think I scare that easily. So, when I was asked, “What does Alzheimer’s disease look like?” I could visualize a whole lot of things: an elderly patient in a wheelchair; an old guy wandering the streets in his robe; a gray-haired lady in a car, confused and lost. Not pretty images, but not especially scary.
Then, I heard the answer: Alzheimer’s disease looks just like me.
I could suddenly imagine myself as that poor patient huddled in a wheelchair, wandering the streets in my robe, or sitting in my car, confused and lost. That was the scary part—I could see myself as a person with Alzheimer’s.
Sue Sklar is the manager of Consumer Education and Outreach from our local Alzheimer’s Association office. She held a class at Rock Valley College’s Center for Learning in Retirement (CLR) called: “The Basics: Memory Loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.” Sue has a down-to-earth, compassionate approach to the topic—in her Second Half of life, she is a caregiver for her Mom, an Alzheimer’s patient.
“It helps to remember that your loved one has a disease of the brain,” she told us. “They aren’t acting that way to be difficult or make your life miserable.”
I, on the other hand, need no reason to be difficult—in my Second Half, I believe we all deserve a few “get out of jail free” cards when it comes to being cranky.
Sue’s goal was to teach us the difference between normal age-related stuff and problems that should be addressed by a doctor. The early diagnosis of a brain disorder means initiating early-stage treatments, designed to slow down progress of the disease—that’s a good thing!
Second-Half friend Larry struggled with dementia related to his heart problems and diabetes. He functioned pretty well for several years, with the combined efforts of some new medications and his wonderful wife/caregiver. The medications slowed the progression of his disease for a long time, and aside from the occasional look that said, “Wait…I’m struggling to remember something,” Larry and his loved ones had quite a few good years after his diagnosis. I recall wonderful times laughing, joking and telling stories—what a gift!
Another Second-Half pal told me she has an extensive family history of Alzheimer’s disease. She said: “Being a caregiver seems frightening and overwhelming to people who have never experienced it, but it isn’t scary if you have a good support system. Exhausting at times, but not scary!”
This gal took the class to learn what Alzheimer’s looks like, just in case she thought she was developing symptoms. “I am busy taking notes,” she joked, “because I know I’ll forget half of what they tell us.”
“If you only forget half,” I replied, “you’ll be doing better than me!”
Just this evening, I was trying to explain how to find a certain passage in a book, “Turn to the last page of the…um, the, uh…”
“Index?” my two gal-pals chimed in together. “Some writer!” We laughed about our aging brains and the silly lapses that might otherwise give us pause. It is nice to age gracefully, surrounded by Second-Half pals who get it!
That class brought up a whole new issue about dementia that never occurred to me, thanks to Dr. Ron Petersen, the director of the Mayo Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. In a short video clip, he explained dementia is an age-related disease and, seeing as how the population is aging, this alone could bankrupt the health care system.
“Baby Boomers will be flooding the health care system over the next couple of decades,” Sue explained, “and half of all people over 85 are now being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.” Well, crap! If they don’t find a cure, or at least a solid form of treatment, seniors could become a huge burden on society.
I recall a scene from an old movie, where everyone over the age of 30 was put into a type of concentration camp. Could it really come to that? Will your kids and grandkids relish the thought of locking up the doddering oldsters?
“I don’t know about the kids wanting us out of the picture,” Hubby chimed in, “but don’t you think ‘concentration camp’ sounds like a summer program in a senior day care center?”
Nobody ever takes my concerns seriously.
Someone in the class asked what we could do to improve our odds of avoiding Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
“The risks are higher for certain groups,” she told us, “such as those with head trauma, diabetes and high blood pressure.” She explained that the “brain-heart connection” is significant, so take care of your heart to reduce your risk. And statistics show those of African-American and Hispanic origin develop Alzheimer’s more often than Caucasians.
“Genetics only seems to be a factor in early-onset patients,” Sue told us, meaning those patients who develop the disease before the age of 65.
Well, genetics are in my favor—no one in my family had dementia, to my knowledge. I eat right, exercise regularly, and so far, I’m in good health. I’m sparking my brain to keep it in top shape, too.
Meanwhile, I’m writing a check and hoping they find a cure soon. Living until I’m 120 means I’ve got to beat the odds!
For more information, contact the toll-free helpline at 1-800-272-3900 or visit the Alzheimer’s Association website: www.alz.org/illinois .
In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.Night Specials are 25-cent Wings, $1 Drafts, $5 Pitchers, $1.25 Cans. For more information, call (815) 877-8007.
From the June 1-7, 2011 issue
Article printed from The Rock River Times: http://rockrivertimes.com
URL to article: http://rockrivertimes.com/2011/06/01/the-second-half-lower-your-risk%e2%80%94forget-about-dementia/
URLs in this post:
 www.alz.org/illinois: http://www.alz.org/illinois
 Image: http://delicious.com/post?url=http%3A%2F%2Frockrivertimes.com%2F2011%2F06%2F01%2Fthe-second-half-lower-your-risk%25e2%2580%2594forget-about-dementia%2F&title=The+Second+Half%3A+Lower+your+risk%E2%80%94forget+about+dementia
 Image: http://digg.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Frockrivertimes.com%2F2011%2F06%2F01%2Fthe-second-half-lower-your-risk%25e2%2580%2594forget-about-dementia%2F&title=The+Second+Half%3A+Lower+your+risk%E2%80%94forget+about+dementia&bodytext=By+Kathleen+D.+Tresemer%0D%0AColumnist%0D%0A%0D%0AI+heard+something+the+other+day+that+scared+me.%0D%0A%0D%0AI+don%E2%80%99t+like+to+admit+being+scared%2C+and+with+the+exception+of+big+ugly+snakes%2C+I+don%E2%80%99t+think+I+scare+that+easily.+So%2C+when+I+was+asked%2C+%E2%80%9CWhat+does+Alzheimer%E2%80%99s+disease+look+like%3F%E2%80%9D+I+could+visualize+a+whole+lot+of+things%3A+a
 Image: http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Frockrivertimes.com%2F2011%2F06%2F01%2Fthe-second-half-lower-your-risk%25e2%2580%2594forget-about-dementia%2F&t=The+Second+Half%3A+Lower+your+risk%E2%80%94forget+about+dementia
 Image: http://www.reddit.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Frockrivertimes.com%2F2011%2F06%2F01%2Fthe-second-half-lower-your-risk%25e2%2580%2594forget-about-dementia%2F&title=The+Second+Half%3A+Lower+your+risk%E2%80%94forget+about+dementia
 Image: http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Frockrivertimes.com%2F2011%2F06%2F01%2Fthe-second-half-lower-your-risk%25e2%2580%2594forget-about-dementia%2F&title=The+Second+Half%3A+Lower+your+risk%E2%80%94forget+about+dementia
 Image: http://twitter.com/home/?status=http%3A%2F%2Frockrivertimes.com%2F2011%2F06%2F01%2Fthe-second-half-lower-your-risk%25e2%2580%2594forget-about-dementia%2F
 Image: http://rockrivertimes.com/2011/06/01/the-second-half-lower-your-risk%e2%80%94forget-about-dementia/feed
Copyright © 2009 The Rock River Times. All rights reserved.