Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Stroke damage = vascular dementia

An update on Alzheimer’s Aunt: after many delays, she finally went to a throat specialist. He found that her throat was 60% closed (if I understand it correctly; this is 3d hand information filtered through her) and she has one or more throat polyps. He “opened” her throat while she was under anesthesia and then she was required to take some “suspension” drug for 30 days. Turns out her insurance didn’t pay for that drug and it was $300 so someone made the decision simply not to get it for her.
Fast forward two weeks to Thanksgiving at my mom’s house. I was sick that whole week and my mom was going to move the turkey dinner to Sunday, but Alzheimer’s Aunt decided she was coming so we couldn’t cancel. I didn’t feel like being with people or eating, but as a dutiful daughter I went to see my mom and my cousin (and my aunt, I guess). I didn’t much feel like eating—I had been sick for 5 days at that point, sleeping about 20 hours a day due to intense pain in my head (probably, looking back, I had a sinus infection, but between the holiday and the weekend there was no way to get to a doctor and on Monday I was getting better already). I took a very small amount of food just to be polite.
Alzheimer’s Aunt loaded up her plate with everything. My mom had accidently bought a six pack of caffeine-free Pepsi instead of caffeine-free Diet Pepsi and since Alzheimer’s Aunt is a Pepsi fanatic (addict) my mom offered it to her.
I had finished about half my meager plate when Aunt started to hiccup. I pushed the plate away and walked into the living room and laid on the couch. When someone asked why, I said, “I don’t want to be trampled” meaning by her when she starts to vomit and that was taken as a joke.
Did Alzheimer’s Aunt stop eating when she started hiccupping? No of course not. She kept shoveling food into her mouth, just like the time with the donut.

I’m going to do an aside here. If, as part of his Alzheimer’s, my dad had started to choke and “spit up” when he ate, and he had a clear warning sign such as hiccups, there is no way I would allow him to keep eating or to stay at the table once the warning bell commenced. He would be immediately told, “Bob, go into the bathroom.” If he didn’t go, he’d be led there. Of course, my cousins would say that’s a perfect example of me “being mean” to my dad, while I see it as an example of taking care of someone who can’t take care of himself. 

Finally the people remaining at the table persuaded her to get up. Instead of going into the bathroom, she went the other way, into the kitchen. Meaning to get to the bathroom she would have to then go through the crowded dining room. Of course, while in the kitchen, it started. She forced her way through the dining room, spewing and gagging, into the bathroom.
This happened at least 4 times. (I went to sleep on the couch.) I don’t know how much of a mess she made in my mom’s bathroom, but last time she left it there for someone else to clean up (actually I cleaned it and told my mom after).
I was invited back to the table for dessert but between being sick and hearing puking, I declined. My cousin commented to her mother, “I noticed that you get sick when you drink soda or eat bread. The other night you drank water and didn’t eat bread and you were okay.” Alzheimer’s Aunt’s instant response: “I didn’t eat bread.” “You were eating stuffing, that’s bread, and you drank several cans of Pepsi.” “I didn’t eat bread.”
I wonder if, 2 weeks before, if she had been giving the prescribed drug, if she would not have been “spitting up” all over the place on Thanksgiving. I can only assume the procedure failed, whether due to the lack of the drug or some other reason.
Aunt was talking about the throat procedure. She said, “I thought I had throat cancer all this time!” I was dumbfounded. If I thought I had cancer, I wouldn’t wait TWO YEARS and LIE to my doctor about symptoms. I wouldn’t even wait two weeks, not after I saw my friend lose her mom in 13 days from cancer—less than two weeks from diagnosis to death last year. Seemingly fine at Thanksgiving, dead by Christmas.
Since Thanksgiving, there has been another bout of “go check on her, she’s dead” wherein it was found that she had left her traditional phone off the hook and turned off her cell phone. My cousin said, “she can’t understand that she needs to hang up the phone because she lost so much comprehension due to the strokes.” I said, “Yes, that’s vascular dementia.” “No, my mother doesn’t have dementia! She’s not like your dad.” (well that much is true) Well, according to this site and many others, “Stroke, small vessel disease, or a mixture of the two can cause vascular dementia.” That seems pretty straightforward to me.
In other Alzheimer’s Aunt news, one of her out-of-state children has decided to move back into the hoarded house and get it fit for habitation. Then she is going to give up her apartment (she’s been there what, a month?) and move back in with her child and child-in-law as caregivers. The house has been about 90% cleaned out (3 overflowing 25-yard dumpsters of trash) but there’s still a whole room of things she “has to have” and of course the place is filthy beyond imagining, smells horrible, and needs pretty much everything done—floors refinished/replaced, bathroom remodeled downstairs for her use, everything else scrubbed and/or painted and/or replaced. Good luck to the two of them moving in there. I wouldn’t live there even for free like they will be.
(I am going to continue calling her Alzheimer’s Aunt because it has a nice ring and Dementia Aunt is ugly. I know now she doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, of course.)
image source 

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