What is Alzheimer’s?
It’s a progressive, degenerative and ultimately fatal brain disease, in which cell to cell connections in the brain are lost. It is the most common form of dementia, and is generally diagnosed in patients over the age of about 65. Rene Cassidy was diagnosed at the age of 80 and has been living with the disease for over 20 years.
Marilyn Grant, Rene Cassidy’s daughter and caregiver shares when she first noticed her mother’s memory starting to deteriorate
“It was subtle signs because the mask it so very well. I used to take her grocery shopping. She was bouncing around from one side of the store for vegetables to they very opposite side of the store for her bread and then back to the veggies again. She was going according to her list instead of using common sense and buying it so you’re not running around all over the store. What should’ve taken 30 minutes took me almost 3 hours. I think thats when I knew I had to do her shopping from now on”
Alzheimer’s does not affect all memory capacities equally:
- short-term memory is the first to go
- next comes episodic memory
- then declarative memory
- and finally procedural memory.
As the disease advances, parts of memory which were previously intact also become impaired, and eventually all reasoning, attention, and language abilities are disrupted.
So how do we help patients suffering with this memory destroy disease?
There’s programs in the city that focus solely on dementia and Alzheimers. Nancy Johnson is the Program Coordinator of the Adult Day program at the Salvation army here in London. Johnson says they run a 5 hour day program 6 days a week and one of their main goals is to help maintain or improve their memory skills. They make sure every individual feels included and not left behind. They have all different levels with their program that caters to all stages of the disease.
The Salvation Army is where Rene Cassidy goes once a week to get out of the house and interact with other people going through the same journey. Cassidy thoroughly enjoys the program even if she may not remember what she did their that day; she always comes home smiling. Marilyn also enjoys when she goes to her day program because since she took in her mother just over a year ago, its the only free time she now has.
” I think the biggest thing I’ve lost since moving her into my house is my freedom. I can’t just get up and grab my keys and go. Im here 24/7 unless one of my PSW’s comes over. Im glued to the house and this gives me the time to get stuff done knowing she’s in good hands, I haven’t always had the luxury knowing.”
Marilyn Grant took her mother out of the home almost two years ago became a full time care giver after the things she had to deal with while her mother was in the home for 4 years.
“When you put your mother in a home, you’d think it would relieve stress but it caused me nothing but stress. I was getting calls several times a day over stuff they shouldn’t need me for and not getting calls with things to with her blood clots, which I saw the symptoms before the home did, every time.”
Alzheimer’s has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. 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.
Today, there is a worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset, and prevent it from developing.