Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Humor and Alzheimer's...Yes, they can go together

Bobblehead's Beloved Mother-in-Law & Friends

My mother-in-law has been slipping away from us. She is there in body but the wonderful person who made her essence, her very soul, seems to be slowly dissolving before our eyes. Alzheimer's is a horrible condition and in many ways it affects the family and caregivers in as devastating a manner as the patient. What I saw with my MIL was that while she was aware something was amiss, she never appeared openly frightened or even concerned over the matter. What did affect her earlier on was seeing that the family was in conflict around her.
An event happened a few years back that still cracks me up to this day. No, I am not laughing at her state. If anything this event taught me that even as she degrades, every now and then a part of her shines through like a lighthouse during a storm. I cling to those moments.
First, a little background.
My father-in-law is a retired preacher. Each and every Sunday he would get in front of the congregation and offer leadership and sermon. Naturally, he wore a suit and tie on a regular basis. As happens after one retires and gets older (he is now 80) he cut back on some of the particulars that are burdensome. He has traded his traditional ties for clip-ons. And since he no longer actually ties ties on a regular basis, he has to challenge himself to remember exactly how to tie one when the rare need occurs. My FIL's state of mind is still as sharp as a tack and he has done the best he could to care for his bride of 50+ years.
A few years back, when we all could see my MIL acting, well, different we finally were able to convince my FIL (who is just a bit stubborn) to take her to a doctor. My wife and kids and I were in for the winter holiday break and getting in to see a doctor was difficult to time at the last moment. We chose a geriatric specialist (who ended up being a complete jackass...but that is for another post).
We sat in the waiting room. Behind my in-laws was a poster giving examples of occurrences that might tip off family members to the beginning signs of Alzheimer's. Giving up things once loved, no longer enjoying company of friends and loved ones, etc. The poster clearly said that any one of these by itself was not a sign...look for a pattern. What caught all of our eyes was that the messages were shown in very clear pictures as opposed to words. By the way, here is a good list of beginning symptoms of Alzheimer's.
My MIL focused in on the picture of an elderly man clearly forgetting how to tie his tie and needing help.
With fire in her eye she turned on her husband and snapped, “You think I have lost my mind yet you are the one who can't tie his own tie. Maybe you should see this doctor.”
We cracked up. Score one for my MIL.
Bless her.

[posted by Bobblehead]