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Alzheimer's Disease - An Insider's Perspective


My mom Renée (and co-creator of LOVE & MOXiE) is living with early stage Alzheimer's.  Alzheimer's is the reason we became roommates and why we were determined to live our lives to the fullest on our own terms, upending our lives (I left my 15+ year career in law enforcement) and moving from NYC to Savannah, GA.

LOVE & MOXiE, our handcrafted accessories company, was born from our desire to raise Alzheimer's awareness (and money, we donate a portion of every sale to Alzheimer's charities) while enjoying time together doing things we love like creating fab & functional products that we hope make your life a bit easier while bringing a smile to your face.

I'm not going to sugar coat it, receiving my mom's diagnosis was devastating, but learning all we can about the disease, taking each day as it comes, and not being too hard on ourselves has helped us cope.  Mom has good days and bad but I'm grateful that lifestyle changes, being active and engaged, and medication have helped stave off decline. 

My best piece of advice is each person's journey with Alzheimer's, whether as the person with it or their caregiver, is different and unique.  Don't compare yourself with others, learn what you can, do the best you can (you'll have good days and bad), be kind to yourself, and know that there is still so much life to be lived even with Alzheimer's.  Oh...and learn to adapt!

 

ALZHEIMER'S - WHAT IS IT

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to waste away (degenerate) and die. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that disrupts a person's ability to function independently. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer's, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer's has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available. Although current Alzheimer's treatments cannot stop Alzheimer's from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. (From The Alzheimer's Association website - see below for link)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALZHEIMER'S - KNOW THE SIGNS

 

As I stated before my mom is in the early stages of Alzheimer's.  If you met her socially you might not even have a clue that she has the disease but behind the scenes and to a trained eye the evidence is there - the impulsive poor decision making, not being able to tend to her finances, a hard time starting tasks or remembering the sequence, not being able to find the right word or remember the meaning of once known words.  She was diagnosed in 2013, but doctors believe it had been going on much longer.  The first clues were her missing doctor's appointments - she'd go on the wrong day, forget about it completely, or never make the appointment because she'd simply get lost, forgetting her normal route to get there.  She also became increasingly home bound.  The doctors said she needed increased exercise, to eat right, and had given her a list of things to do.  But no longer being a self starter, nothing was done.  I was a Special Agent at the time living across the country and frequently traveling out of the country which made it very difficult to really know what was going on.  When I questioned her or asked her if she at least walked around the block, she would say, "I have to go now," and would hang up the phone.  Neighbors that checked on her said she was increasingly staying in her pajamas and often didn't know what day of the week it was.  On a trip to visit me, I saw how things had gotten out of hand.  She wasn't following the prescription check off chart I created to help her remember if she took her many medications. She had the wrong dose of one medication and forgot to bring another.  Luckily, I had already set up access to her medical information so I knew what she should be taking and a quick trip to the 24hr emergency pharmacy got everything straightened out....until, she took double the dose the next day.  So, at that point I knew my mom really needed help and I couldn't do it long distance so we became roommates and started our Alzheimer's journey.  Together we learned all we could about the disease.  Mom said having the diagnosis finally made everything make sense. 

ALZHEIMER'S - PREVENTION

We have our good days and bad days but all in all we can't complain.  Mom is doing great!  She is on the Alzheimer's medication Exelon which has helped with her symptoms and slowed the progression of the

disease.  She keeps a routine, exercises regularly (she goes to yoga and line dancing), eats well, and keeps social and engaged via classes at SCI's (Senior Citizen's Inc - see link below) Learning Center here in Savannah (know as college without the

tests for the 50+ community), and painting classes at Chandler Hospital's Smart Senior.  The painting was a wonderful blessing of the Alzheimer's - you see Alzheimer's can lower ones inhibitions so her fears of trying something new were non-existent (it's also this same inhibitions that sometimes has her saying the darndest things, think no filter - hahaha).  She's really good too!  She might not remember all the line dancing steps or everything in her classes, but she...and I...have learned to adapt. 

I know this won't last.  This awful disease will inevitably progress and ravage her mind.  She will no longer recognize me and she'll become a person I don't recognize - just a shell of her vivacious self.  But, until then, we will live life with moxie!

 

ALZHEIMER'S - RESOURCES


Azheimer's Association - 24/7 helpline 800.272.3900
www.alz.org - this site is full of amazing resources and is our first stop for all things Alzheimer's.

CaringKind:  The Heart of Alzheimer's Caregiving  
https://www.caringkindnyc.org/ - CaringKind is New York City’s leading expert on Alzheimer’s and dementia caregiving and the former NYC Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.  You don't need to be a New Yorker, their website is chock full of helpful information.  Their workshops for caregivers were invaluable to me and the support groups and specialized programs at their Early Stage Center reassured my mom there was still a lot of quality life ahead and she could live it on her own terms and they provided her with the skills to do just that.

Senior Citizens, Inc -  A wealth of senior services in Savannah http://www.seniorcitizensinc.org/ - not only do they provide a senior companion program, meal-delivery service, and adult day health care, they run the Learning Center for those 50+ which provides intellectually engaging courses from film to music to history to politics to everything in between.