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Preparing for Alzheimer's
July 18, 2012 6:46 PM   Subscribe

Change what you do for fun, build your physical strength, become a better person. Alanna Shaikh's TEDtalk on how to prepare yourself for Alzheimer's.
posted by katinka-katinka (20 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
My close family has two dead to this disease and a third who is past knowing us when we see her. My father and uncle have prepared for Alzheimers by stockpiling opiates while I'm leaning toward speeding off a cliff with the accelerator on the floor.
posted by Blue Meanie at 6:58 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Reuters - Alzheimer's drug keeps 4 patients stable for 3 years

Most Alzheimer's patients typically decline over three to six months, so to have the disease stabilize in four patients -all treated for three years with the same dose of the same drug - is "a very unexpected and very positive finding," he said.
...
[Gammagard] is an intravenous immune system treatment made from natural antibodies taken from young, healthy blood donors. Known generically as intravenous immunoglobulin, or IVIG, the therapy is typically used to fight infections in patients with weakened immune systems.

posted by sebastienbailard at 6:59 PM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


[Gammagard] is an intravenous immune system treatment made from natural antibodies taken from young, healthy blood donors.

Looks like Elizabeth Bathory was ahead of her time!

On a more serious note, nice to see strength training get a nod. Muscle mass is increasingly important as we age -- it also improves healing and bone density.
posted by vorfeed at 8:16 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


vorfeed: " On a more serious note, nice to see strength training get a nod. Muscle mass is increasingly important as we age -- it also improves healing and bone density."

I know that since the summer has started, and I haven't had the time to get to the gym in the morning, and I'm exhausted by the night, I feel so much worse than when I have time to go lift weights for 5 hours a week. And I've gained like 10 pounds. Boo.
posted by dejah420 at 8:29 PM on July 18, 2012


There's some effort going on out there to figure out exactly what Gammagard is doing and get the same effect with a smaller dose of specific monoclonal antibody rather than the shotgun approach that Gammagard represents. Of course, there are a lot of Alzheimer's theories that are still "in play" so assume a lot of (maybe all of) that effort is wasted.

Yay drug discovery!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:51 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


She sounds kinda out of breath huh..
posted by ReeMonster at 9:36 PM on July 18, 2012


I've toyed with a more morbid approach to this subject, which is at what point should I purchase and squirrel away a firearm?
posted by eugenen at 10:12 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Change what you do for fun, build your physical strength, become a better person.

And if you don't, it's all your fault that you got Alzheimers, granddad!
posted by MartinWisse at 10:48 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've toyed with a more morbid approach to this subject, which is at what point should I purchase and squirrel away a firearm?

Assuming you're serious, google "exit bag" for a much cheaper and cleaner solution.
posted by vorfeed at 10:51 PM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm preparing for alzheimers by writing a living will and making sure I have access to lethal chemicals when I'm ready for them.

Mind you, I'm in my mid-30s and am not in any danger of developing the condition -- that I know of. Still it's good to have thought the matter through and taken care of the necessary paperwork.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:24 AM on July 19, 2012


My grandfather died after a long bout with severe dementia (but not Alzheimers). He became more confused as his disease progressed, and because he was frequently confused and frightened by being in unfamiliar surroundings with strangers, there were episodes of violent outbursts. If he'd been physically stronger than he was, someone might have gotten hurt.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:59 AM on July 19, 2012


What if I'm already a better person?
posted by sneebler at 4:50 AM on July 19, 2012


My mother is quickly circling the drain due to Alzheimer's. It's a horror to be in the middle of. Unfortunately, due to the lack of money and certain legal complications (i.e. my deadbeat brother being first power of attorney) she's still living at home by herself and there's scant little I can do but field her confused and often incoherent, sometimes accusatory, phonecalls (I live 70 miles away) and pray she doesn't burn down the condo someday.

I have to drive down there tomorrow to take her to see her GP. He wants to examine her before renewing one of her meds. I always dread what I might find when I walk into her home.

I've told my kids on several occasions that, if I start going down that path, they are to walk me into the woods and put a bullet in my head. Or, at the very least, leave the gun with me and leave me out there. They think I'm joking.

Until you find yourself in the middle of this disease, caring for a loved one, you cannot imagine the hell this disease is.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:26 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Decades, when I was a teenager, as my mother and I were driving home from visiting her mother in what was called an 'old folks' home' and was in fact a squalid, cold, rather amateurish place where the terminally bewildered were expected to stagger and stammer out their final months or years out of sight of anyone who might have been bothered by it... as we were driving home she made me promise that if she was ever in a mental state similar to my grandmother's, I was to smother her.

Please never ask a teenager to do that, or even to have to think about it.
posted by Hogshead at 7:05 AM on July 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


My Dad's Mom died slowly of Alzheimer's. He has a blood clot in his leg from surgery several years ago, that he takes an anti-coagulant to control. Dad calls it his "get out of Alzheimer's free card." He has told everyone if things get too bad when he gets older, to just stop the medication and let the clot migrate to his heart.
posted by Malla at 8:37 AM on July 19, 2012


I've watched two family members die, slowly and horrifically, of Alzheimers and am currently trying to distance myself from a third. There are very few worse ways I can think of to die than that. Perhaps none at all.

I don't think it's possible to watch the progression of the disease, particularly if it runs in your family, and not try to plan some better exit for yourself. A shotgun in a shower stall, putting the accelerator down into a bridge abutment, a heavily-weighted walk off a short pier ... they all start to look like pretty attractive alternatives when you're looking into the eyes of someone who just isn't there anymore, and isn't ever coming back. It's a true abyss.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:47 AM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


My great grandmother spent a decade going through the process from amazingly inspiring woman to fetal pre-corpse. It was awful and only cemented in me and my mother that suicide is a far better way.

But when do you do it? The first really obvious symptom leads to confusion, fear and paranoia. Do you offer them the bag when they are so afraid and untrusting? The middle stage is calmer, but childlike tinged with heaps of frustration. Do you put the bag over their head when you feel like they are sad but not exactly suffering? The last stage is the worst, of course, but you are so drained and tired by then that you actually look forward to the body's death. At this point, is it assisted suicide or euthanasia?

It's a complicated issue, one that we talked about a lot. If it were up to me, I would have helped alleviate my great grandmother's suffering on the day she almost bled out because she tried to pick off her own varicose veins, but her daughter felt otherwise and she lingered for 3 more years. I hope I have the courage to choose differently if I am faced with the same decision.
posted by Vysharra at 11:50 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


My dad, grandfather and grandmother had Alzheimer's; I have 2 aunts that have it now. Alanna Shaikh's TEDtalk, especially the bit about having a hands-on hobby, made sense to me. As my dad declined, he was always up for a puzzle, even if just for a few minutes.

Anyhow, I really appreciated this video; as someone talking about Alzheimer's in this way, like how to live with it as best you can. I really appreciated this advice, it may have been the first I have ever heard that wasn't about how to prevent Alzheimer's. I thought it was awesome.

Along with the upcoming documentary, Alive Inside, and the book, Love, Loss and Laughter, I feel like we are just at the beginning of a movement to reacting to Alzheimer's patients in a different way. I am hopeful it will lead us to better care for people and their families and caregivers.
posted by katinka-katinka at 3:40 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, just wow -- thank you all for sharing. My heart goes out to you.

in what was called an 'old folks' home' and was in fact a squalid, cold, rather amateurish place where the terminally bewildered were expected to stagger and stammer out their final months or years out of sight of anyone who might have been bothered by it...

My mother's father was a farmer and widower living in his own house on his own land until he had a stroke. I saw him there and at my cousin's house when we went out to visit when I was 14. He could barely walk or speak -- they had nothing in the way of physical therapy in those days -- and spent his time at the house in a recliner watching the Beverly Hillbilly's. And at the 'home,' oh, God, it was so dark and dank, and, yet, once he was a man who could fix any machine, make his own furniture, run a large farm all by himself. I didn't see that much of my grandfather and didn't talk that much with him.

Which prompts me, slightly offtopic, to suggest this to you folks in your teens and twenties: talk to your elders while they are still here. I know it can be a big drag to look at them, to put up with their foolishnesses but they, and I guess I should really say, we, aren't going to be around forever. From my experience, if you don't, you can find yourself regretting it your whole life.
posted by y2karl at 5:22 PM on July 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


As Vysharra says, the tricky part, for those who would like to suicide out, is when to pull the "trigger", however you've defined "trigger". I've thought variously of driving off a mountain (I've got the perfect one selected), or wandering off on a trail into the backwoods (got a good one selected for that, too), and a long walk off a short pier (no selection there, yet.) But again, how do you choose when to do it?

Wait too long and you're screwed. Too soon, and well, who wants to die too soon?

Your plan also has to be simple enough for someone of diminished capabilities to pull off. The father of a friend had a well-thought-out plan that in the end turned out to be too well-thought-out. By the time he decided to act, he wasn't able to follow his own directions.

This was all academic for me, though, until earlier this year, when my younger brother called to say he'd been diagnosed with the disease. It's no longer academic. He's strongly against suicide, and so his wife is faced with the financial burden, as well as the emotional and psychological burdens of dealing with his decline. It's an expensive disease.

I've done a small amount of actual research, and have found that helium is reported to be a quick, painless method. The state I live in will have a physician-assisted suicide referendum on the ballot this fall. I know how I'm going to vote.
posted by qurlyjoe at 6:38 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


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