What Is Alzheimer's Trying To Teach?

in #health9 days ago (edited)

We’ve all heard of identity theft, or maybe even know someone who has personally been victimized. It might have begun with the victim noticing few credit card charges or bank withdrawals that don’t make sense. Before they know it their life is plunged into complete and utter chaos that might take years to fix.

Now imagine this happening in real life, only it’s not just your online identity and your finances that are stolen it's everything, and it can't be fixed. Imagine everything that makes you unique slowly erased from your memory – all you’ve learned, knowledge of who you are, where you’ve traveled and lived, sense of time and place, and eventually even your motor skills. This is the reality of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s difficult to imagine anything more cruel and devastating.

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog know my father was diagnosed with this horrendous illness about three years ago. I’ve written about his situation somewhat extensively this past year. The progression of his illness was being managed pretty well with medication until about six months ago. Over the past few months Dad has steadily slipped further and further away from us and the person he once was.


“Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible.” – Tia Walker


Having to watch his digression these past few months mostly from a distance (because of Covid) has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to deal with. This past weekend my father slipped out of their apartment with the keys and a pair of pajamas and took the car. His plan was to go “home” because he remembered home to be somewhere he lived decades ago and not the apartment that he and my Mom have shared for the past five years.

He was lost, driving in circles, for nearly four hours until he ran into the back of a truck about twenty miles away from home. The car was totaled but, thankfully the safety features of the Honda Fit did their job, he escaped with only a broken kneecap. Miraculously, no one else was injured. In helping my Mom and brother deal with the aftermath this week I’ve had one nagging question...why?

It’s been a bit of serendipity to have be writing a book on mindfulness while dealing with my Dad’s downward spiral. Focusing on writing this new book, Mindful Moments, has been therapeutic and has also brought into focus a few things. One of them is how we can take lessons learned from meditation and apply them to the waking moments of our lives. Since starting my meditation practice many years ago I've learned that everything happens for a reason. The best lessons can only be learned from living and I’ve lived long enough to know that sometimes the reasons why aren't always glaringly apparent and at times can even seem undecipherable.

Our minds are significantly more powerful than we know. This is why it’s so important to be continuously mindful and conscious of your thoughts. Thoughts eventually become things. Every single physical man made object in this world was born in the realm of thoughts and ideas. It’s equally as important to allow your emotions to fully process and not suppress them.


“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu


A large part of what makes us human is our quest to search for reasons. This entire week I’ve been doggedly chasing the answer to this one simple question...why? This has led me to several articles and theories about not only the physical causes but also the spiritual nature of Alzheimer’s. Research shows a strong correlation between Alzheimer’s and depression, the latter of which my father has suffered from his entire life.

I’ve read a theory about how the disease is a physical manifestation of a lifetime of thoughts about no longer wanting to be in this world. Eventually these thoughts activate the disease itself. I also read about another theory that Alzheimer's and dementia are a kind of self-defense mechanism triggered by a person's fear of aging and death.

I also found this wonderful article which has been particularly helpful and comforting for our family, specifically in terms of how to relate to and try to understand what my Father is experiencing during these advanced stages of the disease.

Life has so much to teach us, so much that seventy or eighty years on this Earth isn’t nearly long enough. For a while Dad was telling us stories from his past that we've never heard before, things that have likely been suppressed for years. As we continue this journey with my Father I’m sure we’ll learn much more.

What a challenging year 2020 has been for us all. As you go about your day reflecting on your own challenges please try to be mindful of the challenges of others.

Above all else I believe this disease and 2020 in particular have tried to teach us all this one important thing, we need to be more kind. Not only to each another but also to ourselves.

Be kind, especially when it feels like a tough thing to do.

Have you had any personal experiences with Alzheimer’s? If so, what are some things you’ve learned?

Thanks for reading!

With Gratitude,

Eric


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We've been touched by Alzheimer's in my family. My Nana had it for a couple of years (at least) before another ailment ended the struggle. I saw what it did to my mum and it was tough, so tough to hear. She kept a lot of things from me about the experience that I'm still hearing of, 9 years on.

This year I decided I would try to reach 2,020km by a combination of running and hiking to raise money for Alzheimer's Society charity and, as I sit here listening to the rain thinking "I don't want to go out in that", reading your post has inspired to me to go out in that and take a few more steps to the finish line.

Take care mate.

Thanks for the comment @nickyhavey. I'm sorry your family had to deal with it. This disease is particularly difficult for the family members that have to witness it.

That's a great thing you're doing! Best of luck in reaching your goal! Take care of yourself.

Yeah it's horrible mate, wouldn't wish it on anyone and every time I hear another story of an affected family, well, it brings up the emotions again. It's like that person is there, but they're not there, it's just the shell that some demon has started possessing. It's hard to adjust that the real family member affected is not the same person.

I did like your theory in the post about how Alzheimer's is the amalgamation of all the negative thoughts - it's a good deterrent if you have seen how the condition affects others and spread the positivity, which is something we need more of in these difficult times.

Thanks man, just got to keep myself fit and well for these final few months and hope to get it done before Christmas 🙂

It is horrible and particularly frightening because there's so little we can do to prevent it. I know the mind has a lot of influence on our physical being so I think there could me some truth to those theories. I wish you well in meeting your goals, it's especially tough to stay fit as the days get shorter. I rode the bike today and it was only 48 (f) but it wasn't bad with gloves and a jacket. Cheers, man!

Yeah there could be some truth. How often does our body respond with illnesses when we are stressed or depressed - it's all part of the same thing ultimately. Think well, be well 🙂

Nice one on the bike ride! Yeah the evenings are drawing in and our clocks go back at the end of the month so it adds to the challenge but exercise is a great way to get the endorphins going all year round

True, when we're stressed or depressed in suppresses our immune system. They're finding Alzheimers is a bit like coronary artery disease because plaque builds in the brain, causing the memory issues.

Man, I have no idea what I'm going to do once it gets too cold here to ride. Those bike rides have been my savior this summer/fall. We had a gym membership last year but we don't feel comfortable going now because of Covid. We do have an exercise bike so I guess that'll have to do. My Russian kettlebells have worked out well too instead of regular free weights.

I am sorry to hear that. I am glad that he was able to come away with just a broken knee cap although anything broken is never a small thing as you get older. This has to be really hard for you. I am glad you were able to find a bit of something that was some comfort to you. I don't think I really like the other theories you mentioned. It sounds like you dad is a pretty awesome guy who was loving and supportive of you. To imply that he didn't want to be in this world is offensive to me. That's just me though. There is country artist I really like named William Michael Morgan. He is newer but has an old sound. He has an album called Vinyl and there is one song I always have to skip over when it comes on. It is called "I know who he is". It is really powerful. You should give it a listen sometime, just make sure you are in the right headspace. My best wishes to you and your family!

Thanks for your concern and kind words. It's been a really trying week, especially for my Mom. I wasn't trying to imply any of those theories pertained to my father specifically. I was trying to say that I was pursuing and researching "reasons why" out of curiosity and the need to understand this disease, in general, on a deeper level. I've come up with no clear answers in my Dad's case but the link to the article above had some great information on how to deal with and relate to dementia patients. I'll check out that song, I appreciate the suggestion. It sounds like I may have to wait a while before I give it a listen though. Thanks again and take care.

Yeah, I would definitely wait to take a listen. Oh, no worries, I didn't think you were saying that. I was just a little shocked, this is vulnerable time for a lot of people and then to make that implication it would be a horrible thing to come across as you are researching. Maybe I am just overly sensitive :P

Hello dear friend @ericvancewalton good evening
I know about your father, I am very sorry that you are going through this, I also know about the disease, it hurts a lot to see the loved one that way, it is incredible that they can remember things from the past as if it were yesterday, and the things of a minute ago have no idea of having lived it.

This year hos is leaving a lot of teaching, especially loving life and enjoying the simplest things where true happiness lies

have a wonderful night

Thanks my friend. I hope you have a great close to the week!

Wowwww, it's good that your father came out of that crash, people after a certain age can't afford to fall or have any kind of accident, because the recovery is terrible.

I hadn't heard those theories before, and the truth is that whatever the reason is, it's a very cruel disease... In my case what i have learned most is that you have to have patience, patience at an extreme level, that no matter how many times you have to repeat things, you have to do it as if you were saying it for the first time and with all the love in the world. Because it´s not their fault.

He got very lucky. Thankfully he's still, physically, pretty strong and has always been a quick healer, even at almost 82 years old.

You're right, I like what you say about patience. That's an enormous lesson this teaches. I know they're making great strides in treatments for this disease. I hope they find a cure for this soon.

Thanks for your comment!

It is a pleasure for me, many blessings for your father and family!

I did not know the possible causes of Alzheimer's. Although it is to suppose that there is something internal and unconscious of wanting to erase our memory and our life. What you say about your father's accident is enough to worry. I have a friend whose mother lived for a long time with this disease and in a carelessness, she left the house and got lost. Thank God they found her on a highway to another city and she was safe and sound. If our parents already need care when they reach a certain age, I imagine they will need more than 100% of our attention with this type of illness. The idea is to give them love, attention and care, Eric. Without forgetting that surely your mother also needs support. A big hug and take care of yourselves. Have a good Thursday, my friend

I'm glad your friend's mother was found. It sure was a scare. I didn't realize how common it was for Alzheimer's patients to walk or drive away from where they live, just trying to find some former "home". We'll be coming up with a game plan for his care from here on out and it'll take a team of us. Thanks Nancy and enjoy the rest of your week!

Yes I've heard that ALZHEIMER before, it is a sickness I don't even pray for my foe cos not everyone is lucky to get healings once you are a victim

Sorry about your Dad's accident, that's life for you, it throws what you don't even want most times

Only the good thinkers can understand 2020 lesson, the year made us understand anything can happen so don't postpone, do whatever you ha e in mind

Thank you, man! 2020 is offering its fair share of lessons, that's for sure. I hope all is well with you!