I just learned that my father has Alzheimer's disease and I need information
June 7, 2004 7:15 PM   Subscribe


Tonight I found out that my dad most likely has Alzheimer's (he's 71). My stepmom is bringing me up to speed in regards to his condition - depression, mood changes, forgetfulness, neurological and psychological workup. I've seen it - and attributed (*wishfully*) to his past heart surgery (3 years ago) and depression.

Supports groups, Good information, Medical advances. I want to be an expert and fast, fast, fast. Yes, I'm doing my google work. Yes, I'm going to talk to the physician(s) involved.

But MeFi is too big - someone else must be going through this; have gone through it, knows what to do, what mistakes they made. This is what the green is about, right?
posted by filmgeek to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so, so, sorry. No advice other than to be sure you're getting multiple opinions from multiple docs. My dad got this diagnosis and then, incredibly, it turned out to be symptoms of medication he was on. Medication stopped...symptoms stopped. Good luck.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:19 PM on June 7, 2004

I'll got a fat collection of recent (last 2 or 3 years) NYT, BBC, etc, research news, anti-alzheimer's tips. I'll dig it up in the morning, otherwise email me. (forgetfulness runs in the family)

But - in short : 1) new learning/skills 2) exercise 3) social interaction 4) travel, and change in general 5) good nutrition/antioxidants 6) tumeric, cumin, (and various other spices). 7) throw away television set

All these prescriptions benefit, as well, people without Alzheimer's.
posted by troutfishing at 9:09 PM on June 7, 2004

filmgeek - I'm really sorry you're going to have to go through this. My grandmother died several years ago after a long bout with Alzheimer's and it was a horrible experience.
posted by bshort at 9:35 PM on June 7, 2004

I am indeed going through this. There are two good drugs out there, Aricept and Namenda. Aricept is helpful in early to middle stage disease, Namenda seems to be helpful in almost all cases -- but it is very new.

My father was on both (not simultaneously), and due to other illnesses could not tolerate the side effects. But the improvement on Namenda was staggering...I am only sorry that he couldn't continue the treatment.

NB: I am not a doctor...yet. Will be in a few years. I am however a caretaker and here is the best advice I can give (aside from all the excellent resources online and available through nonprofits)
  • Keeping his mind active is one of the best things you can do. If there were puzzles, or word games, or crosswords that he likes/liked to do, have him keep doing it for as long as he can.
  • Patience. It is a gift. Ask for lots.
  • Be very cognizant of what drugs he is on other than any for the Alzheimers (e.g., blood pressure meds, antidepressants, etc.) Sometimes the interactions are worse than the disease.
  • The best piece of advice someone gave me, and now I give you and your mother: "When traveling with the elderly and small children, always place your oxygen mask on first before assisting them with theirs." I.e., take care of yourselves. You're of no help to anyone if you're a mess too. And this I learned the hard way. My best to you and yours.

posted by ltracey at 9:54 PM on June 7, 2004 [1 favorite]

This post in the blue is probably a good place to start. My story is in there somewhere near the bottom.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 10:30 PM on June 7, 2004

Sorry to hear about this. Spend as much time with your father because time is against you. When my grandfather was diagnosed, it was too late. There were no red flags for those that did not live with him other than old age setting in. Will add with Ronald Regan in the news from my experience, the full blown condition can happen in a few months time.
IMHO, it's not that it just sets in one day. Feel one's intelligence may mask it well enough to show little signs at first until the disease shows itself by one's mental faculty nearing complete failure.
posted by thomcatspike at 6:30 AM on June 8, 2004 [1 favorite]

Hope this was an early diagnosis for you and your family, best of luck.
posted by thomcatspike at 6:37 AM on June 8, 2004

Christ, that sucks. I went through this with my dad and it's just appalling in every way.

Some non-hard-info things:

You will get mad at him for being forgetful/bizarre - this is your own fear and is normal. Cut yourself some slack in the guilt department if you snap at him.

If he has dementia, things can get really bad really fast. My dad - a most gentle, courtly man - tried to hit people. With firelogs. This was not him, it was the disease.

Your step mother is going to need as much support and help as you can possibly provide. Also, start looking into home health care. It costs the earth but maybe insurance can help.

If car keys are an issue, start figuring out now what to do about it.

Get lots of help! Support groups - even if you aren't the type - are key to making sure you realize you aren't the only ones dealing with this.

Talk to him as much as you can. That's what I miss most. That's the bit you regret most later.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:46 AM on June 8, 2004

Keep an eye on the meds. With my grandmother, some meds exacerbated the problem, some did not.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:46 PM on June 8, 2004

Use respite care! You can't take care of someone with Alzheimer's 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and not get exhausted and frustrated. The Brookdale Foundation, a non-profit based out of NYC, funds respite care centers across the country where you can drop off your relative for several hours of "adult day care" so you can tend to yourself and your own needs for awhile. Link:
To offer opportunities for persons with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia to engage in a program of meaningful social and recreational activities in a secure and supportive setting in order to maximize their cognitive and social abilities;
To provide relief to family members and other primary caregivers of and individuals with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia.
(Obligatory disclaimer: my family is involved with the Foundation. They're a good source of information on gerontological issues generally, but also particularly medically--up until last year, they gave grants to doctors specializing in geriatric medicine, a specialty that used to be almost non-existent.)

Best of luck to you and your family. Hang in there.
posted by Asparagirl at 7:01 PM on June 8, 2004

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