Jun 21, 2012

My Best Day as an Alzheimer's Caregiver

My mother, Dotty, didn't laugh or smile for two years. It was killing me. I couldn't get away from it. Just one look at her staring into space and it all came raining down on me.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

My Best Day as an Alzheimer's Caregiver
I'm fortunate. I received a great education, learned how to do research, and I like to gobble up information.

So when it came time to figure out Alzheimer's, what it is, and what I could do to best care for my mother, I was ready to go.

I am referring here mostly to science and scientific research. I made a very good decision early on. I put together a sophisticated alert system using Google, and then almost everything that had to do with Alzheimer's and dementia came pouring into my email box. Over time, I continue to improve my systems.

Many times, you get an article or research report and it leads you to investigate additional information. This is what happened to me and lead to what is really my best ever caregiver moment.

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My mother, Dotty, didn't laugh or smile for two years. It was killing me. I couldn't get away from it. Just one look at her staring into space and it all came raining down on me.

And then it happened. I was reading about illnesses and diseases that can present with dementia or depression like symptoms, but are in fact treatable. In other words, it can appear that you are suffering from dementia or depression when in fact something else is causing those symptoms.

I read that problems with the thyroid can cause symptoms that mimic dementia or depression. With this knowledge in hand, I went to see our then wonderful personal care physician, Dr. Carlos Chiriboga (Doc C).

The Less Than Trusty Thyroid.

"Get your thyroid tested. Nearly one in five people over the age of sixty has some degree of hypothyroidism, meaning a sluggish thyroid.

The sympotms include forgetfulness, weight gain, depression, dry skin, intolerance to cold, muscle aches, and fatigue.

People who are hypothyroid feel as though they have mild Alzheimer's and depression all mixed into one bad day."

Page 82, the Alzheimer's Action Plan

So I go in and ask Doc C if he will get a thorough check of my mother's thyroid. He agreed without any hesitation.

Sure enough he calls us in and tells me, while you mother is not clinically suffering from hypothyroidism, the test looks suspicious. He decided to give Dotty the lowest dose of a generic thyroid medication. He also told me, we are going to monitor her closely (meaning additional blood test) to insure that we don't give her hyperthyroidism.

I can't remember for certain but I think it was the first after she started taking the medication. I was sitting at the computer and out of nowhere Dotty started laughing. She was watching television. The exact same Dotty laugh from all the days before she stopped.

I was filled with joy. I had my usual shot of adrenalin, so I started pacing around.

Please read this carefully,

No, it didn't cure her Alzheimer's or really change the trajectory in any way.

I'll tell you what it did change. It changed me. It made me more determined than ever to try and become the "world's greatest Alzheimer's caregiver." Before that episode I was just trying to be the best I could be. I know this sounds "hokey" and egotistical, but it nevertheless true. I am not the only one by they way.

This story gets better.

Doc C had a 94 year old patient that stopped talking. He was there, could blink his eyes, but had stopped talking. They put him in the hospital and after every test under the sun, the specialists called Doc C from the hosptial and said they wanted to shock the patients brain.

Doc C went over to the hospital to sign off on the procedure, but before he did, he reviewed all the tests. He decided to try one last thing. Thyroid medication. The man came back to life. He started talking and went back home.

When Doc C told me this story he said, I got that idea from you and your mother. I noticed that while he wasn't clinically suffering from hypothyroidism, the test looked suspicious.

I can also tell you this.

I was the first to ask Doc C for the combination treatment of Aricept and Namenda. I remember clearly that when I made my case to Doc C based on the research he hesitated and then agreed to write the prescription.

I also learned from another source that after Doc C saw the change in my mother, he prescribed the treatment for an additional 60 patients (the one's that could afford it). The feedback was very positive. When the combination of Aricept and Namenda works, it can work very well.

It worked for us.

I'll leave it to you to digest this information and decide how to use it..

Sometimes you just have to Look Beyond the Obvious.

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 3,700 articles with more than 298,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room