Tuesday, April 25, 2006

71 Grandma's crazy

We went to my grandmother's for dinner as usual on Sunday night. When we walked in the door, my father smiled brightly at Will and said "Hi Rick!" My mother and grandmother immediately corrected him and he said "Hi Will!" He doesn't apologize, just moves on.
Through the whole dinner he kept farting away. My husband made a comment about an elephant and I said "Yeah, it follows my father around." And yes, we said this at normal volume. My dad doesn't listen to anything unless it's directed AT him.
My grandmother was in rare form. Not moping or complaining or having the downturned mouth. She had a puzzle almost finished, and when it got down to 30 pieces or so I turned it over to my husband and started sorting the pieces to the next puzzle. This puzzle was a strange one, made of foam like a 3d puzzle. The person who had done it last had folded it up and put it into the box. So my mom and I were breaking it apart and putting aside the edges. My grandmother and father both had fits because we were breaking it part 100%--not leaving even 2 pieces joined together. My father calls it "throwing it away" as in, "Don't throw it away!" meaning "stop taking it apart!" (that good ol' Bob speak).
My grandmother took a bunch of unbroken chunks and set them aside. As I kept going through the box finding edges, I'd break apart any still-joined smaller chunks. My grandmother actually grabbed my hand and BIT ME to make me stop. I thought I was going to pee myself laughing. Then my mom reached over and started breaking up the big chunks grandma had set aside and my grandmother slapped her hand and threated to cut off her thumbs. I can't remember the last time she was so spunky. It was great fun.
I pulled out a bunch of pieces which had writing on them--the picture was a house with a sign out front. I gave those pieces to my dad because that's what he likes. He couldn't put them together (he hardly tried)--although he had just been putting together very difficult pieces which were just leaves and shadow on the other puzzle. He got mad, flung the pieces aside and went to sit in the armchair and glare into space. He didn't turn on the TV or speak, just sat there in a snit.
Last night I stopped at my grandma's after I went to the vet to get Zen's medicine. (He's got a thyroid condition--he's lost 2 pounds.) I only meant to stay an hour but she was still in a good mood so I stayed almost four hours. I missed my body shop meeting. Oh well. She offered me "two grinders" she'd gotten at the Senior Center earlier. I took them for Will to eat. We did about a third of the puzzle and watched the news and then I took the "grinders" home for Will.
They were just two rolls. Not sandwiches. Oh well.

Monday, April 17, 2006

70 Easter, beach, Jebus, new research

Yesterday was Easter. The only thing I care about for Easter is getting a chocolate rabbit. I got one, so I'm happy.
We had dinner with my parents and my grandmother. As usual my grandmother was crabby. Her "mornings are bad" everything's bad, everything makes her fart (so she claims) so she didn't want to eat anything. Of course everything makes my dad fart, he was trumpeting away throughout dinner. I could tell my husband was totally grossed out. And it is gross. But what can you do? He says he's not farting.
Grandma decamped before dessert was hardly finished. At least she drove herself so we didn't have to disrupt everything to get her back home. Will had homework or a quiz or something so he went home too, and I went to Hammonassett with my parents.
We were barely out of the driveway when my dad started to freak out. "Oh no, oh no, oh no, I forgot again." Then he gets mad at himself and starts swearing. "Goddamn it." We ask what's wrong. "I forgot again, I forgot to bring the stuff, and they get so happy." He hadn't brought any bread for the birds. (There were no birds to feed when we got there so no biggie.) My mother explained that they didn't have anything at home to bring, but he wouldn't stop being upset. Until my mom realized she forgot her purse, and of course I didn't have mine, and then my father freaked out about that, that she lost her purse (money, you know) and then she remembered that she only brought her wallet. That was a bad few minutes.
They kept forgetting I can't walk like I did when I was 19. We started on the boardwalk. That was okay, and there are benches along the way. Then that section of the boardwalk ended and we went down onto the sand (what there was of it--high tide). Every few steps I'd sink. It was throwing my not-stable-on-a-good-day gait off, and really hurting my ankles. My parents' plan, as far as I could tell, was to walk all the way to Meig's Point, the other side of the beach. I couldn't do it. So we turned back at one of the bathroom pavilions and walked back on a gravel road (better than sand but not by much). I found some nice small shells but I had no pockets and eventually I lost them all.
The first thing that happened when we got to the park was that my mom bought a season pass. It's something like $10 to park every time, or a pass is $40. That's a no-brainer. My dad insisted on getting a reciept and they also gave us a list of parks where the sticker was good. We parked and my mom started to apply the sticker. My dad FREAKED and started screaming at her "No not there, don't put it there!" He got out of the car and slammed the door and went to look from the outside and stood there just screaming at her. Everyone in the lot was looking. He went and slammed his door a few more times and I told him to stop it. But you know what-he was right. She put it behind the dark strip at the top of the window and it couldn't be seen. But still, he doesn't have to yell like that.
On the way out, my mom asked him if he wanted to stop and get a soda. He didn't answer her the first few times she asked and then when he finally did what he said didn't answer the question so she just went to McDonald's. I decided I wanted a chocolate shake which I haven't had for a long time, and since I'd just spent 2 hours walking it would get burnt up quick. My father was literally counting out pennies to pay for his senior drink. He doesn't know my name but he knows how much a soda is at McDonald's. For whatever reason, my mom didn't use the drive-through, she went inside. So we all went with her. It came to about $4. As soon as we got outside my father started in on her. "Why did you give them so much money? I gave you the forty-six cents and you gave them six or eight dollars! Why did you give them so much?" My mother pointed out that she gave them $4 and they gave her change. "No you didn't it was six or eight dollars, I saw it." "Berta got a shake so it cost more." "We got ripped off." Now he's muttering. "Where's the piece of paper, they gave me a piece of paper." He's frantic for this piece of paper. My mom says "What piece of paper?" "They gave it to me! Where is it?" He was looking for the list of parks, which I had. God forbid I should want to look at it. It's his paper.
At the end of dinner (wow, I'm skipping around a lot aren't I?), my dad was of course still eating because he takes forever, and he was sitting there all alone while we cleaned up and got my grandmother off and I just felt so sad looking at him. It's like he's in a bubble and for now we're in it too with him, but it's getting smaller and smaller. Already I'm on the edge as "whatshername" and someday I'll be pushed out entirely.
I have to backtrack to Friday night. My dad didn't really work on the puzzle at all with us. Just wandered in and out. I think he was watching a ball game, I forget, but he kept swearing. "Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ." (Which made me think of the Simpsons and Homer yelling "Help me Jebus!") It was getting kind of funny and I finally said to my mom, "How funny would it be if Jesus appeared in the living room and said 'Bob, what do you want? It's Easter weekend and I'm kind of busy. Can you stop calling me every five seconds?'"

Now onto some research news.

Alzheimer's patch. I didn't pay to read the whole article, but the gist of the sample is:
Neur-Hitech Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NHPI) announced that it has signed a development agreement with Xel Herbaceuticals, Inc. to develop a transdermal patch to treat Alzheimer disease.
The therapeutic agent is Huperzine A, a molecule currently undergoing U.S. phase II clinical testing as an orally administered treatment for mild-to-moderate Alzheimer disease.

Charlton Heston has AD. I didn't even know that. Actor Charlton Heston has become a virtual recluse and is unable to leave his home as he continues to battle Alzheimer's disease. Heston's son, Fraser Heston, claims the disease has had a devastating effect on his famous father. He says, "He's still at home and will be for the rest of his life. He's exhibiting a kind of courage I haven't seen before."
It has a devasting effect on non-famous fathers, too, Fraser my friend.

Assisted Suicide Clinics for Alzheimer's sufferers: I would do this. I will do this, if I get it.
A Swiss lawyer who runs a “suicide clinic” that has helped 42 Britons to kill themselves, intends to offer his services to people who are not terminally ill. ... “We never say no,” says Minelli in an interview in today’s Sunday Times Magazine. “Even those suffering from Alzheimer’s will have lucid moments in which they may choose to die once a certain point has been reached, such as when they can no longer recognise their children.” ...
Dr Peter Saunders, general secretary of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said: ... “It is laughable to suggest that someone with Alzheimer’s, who cannot remember two minutes later what they told you, could have the capacity to understand and weigh up and make a decision on suicide. The potential for abuse is horrendous.”

Is it? If I had AD, yes, I'd set a benchmark. When this happens, that's it. I have no plans to allow myself to be so incapacated that I'm not capable of killing myself. With no children and no brothers and sisters, I won't be a burden on society, some lonely old kook alone and drooling in a nursing home. It's just wrong.

And here's another reason why I could get AD (besides the genetic component)
Obesity raises Alzheimer's risk. People who are overweight or obese in their 40s have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease later in life ...(R)esearchers followed nearly 9,000 people over a period of up to 30 years. The study participants were evaluated ... by measuring skin fold thickness .....
Those with higher skin fold measurements in their 40s were more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those with smaller skin fold measurements. Those in the highest group of shoulder skin fold measurements were nearly three times as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease as those in the lowest group. For the arm measurements, those in the highest group were 21.5 times as likely to develop Alzheimer's as those in the lowest group.
The results did not change when researchers took into account people with diabetes and other conditions that can increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Vitamins and Ibuprofen Reduce Alzheimer's Risks (A) long-term study claims that taking a combination of vitamins A and C, along with ibuprofen can greatly reduce those at risk of Alzheimer's disease. ...After adjusting for several parameters, such as age and gender, those subjects who took the combination of vitamins A and C and the ibuprofen, compared with those who did not, were found to have performed better by approximately 1 point every 2 years according to standard mental examination scores.....So if patients seem to be at high risk, such as having several family members with Alzheimer's disease or with early memory loss, they are likely to benefit the most from the triple-combination therapy.

So if I lose weight and take my vitamins, I'll be okay? Pretty please?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

69 visit with students

Mayatime: 2 Ix 7 Pop

Today was the big visit with the Yale pre-med students. I really don't know what I expected. It went well, I think.
I got to my parents around 10:45 and we headed out shortly after that. The traffic wasn't too bad until we got up to the 91/95 merge; going onto 95S was a mess, but then again it always is. But since we were getting off exit 1 it didn't matter; we were able to scoot by it all. The Coliseum is partially ripped down. It was strange to be able to look inside and see all the blue and red seats. I went to the Barnum and Bailey Circus when I worked at Yale Broadcasting; that was the last thing I went to there. The last concert? I can't even remember.
The trouble with my dad started in the parking lot. It's this little tiny lot, really just an empty lot. Cars parked every which way, totally tight, crazy. My mom found a space that was a little too small but that was all there was. She didn't park exactly between the lines. My dad was screaming and yelling and making such a fuss that I said I'd move the car. But she'd parked so close I couldn't even fit between the cars. I had to climb in through the passenger seat, over the console, and into the driver's seat. With my rotund body. Hopefully there's no hidden cameras there. As I'm trying to back out and reposition the car my dad's right behind the car. I'm yelling at him to MOVE and he's waving his arms which way I should go and my mom's grabbing at him trying to get him to move. I manage to get the car about 4" to the right; of course now the people on the other side won't be able to get into THEIR car. The lot's that tight. He's yelling that I'm not between the lines good enough and I'm telling him that I can't move over anymore because the other cars aren't centered and he says "Just shoot me" and I said "Maybe another time."
Then as we get into the waiting room he starts in that he doesn't want to do the 1-2-3 thing (the memory tests), he hates them. The lady doctor comes out and starts to talk to us about what's going to happen, and he says he doesn't want to do it, that all the kids will laugh at him because he's such a dummy and he can't talk anymore and if they don't laugh to his face they'll laugh when they get home. He picks up a magazine and points to the print and says that he can't read it anymore, he used to be able to do that. It is so upsetting to me to think that my dad can't read anymore.
My mom and I went in first. We talked about an equal amount, I'd say. First the doctor asked us some general questions, what was it like to realize he had something wrong with him, etc. Then the students got to ask questions. There were a lot of them there. The lady doctor had said 12 or 15 but it was more like 20. Most of the questions were pretty thoughtful. No one laughed. Then it was my dad's turn. We reassured him that they wanted to talk to him, that they had come in just to meet him, and that they wouldn't laugh. They took him in without us. I said "Good luck with that"--without my mom and I to interpret the Bobspeak. But I guess he did okay--when they brought him out, they said he started out a little slow but once he got going he had a really good time and everyone enjoyed it. How they could enjoy seeing the ruin of a decent human being...but I can't think of it that way. They saw that he's HUMAN, that was the point.
We had to hang out in the waiting room for a while because another couple was late for their appointment so they couldn't see my dad right away. As the students came out most of them stopped to talk to us, and thank us. My dad would stand up, shake their hands, and thank them for coming, like it had been a command performance of his. He's so cute sometimes.
I got to talk to the doctor (Dr Van Dyke) who's the head of the study. He said a few months after the WHOLE study is done, not just the section my dad's in, we can find out if he was in the placebo group or not. He also said there's a review board and they have the true data, not the blind data, and that at the halfway point they could halt the study--if they see a huge increase in cognitive function in the people getting the infusions, or if the see a huge decrease. But he said that hasn't happened yet. He also said if this drug works it could be on the market soon enough for my dad to get a prescription for it.
I also asked him when I should start getting tested for it--the little cognitive tests. He said only if I feel that something's wrong. He told me to take vitamins and eat fish. Yes to the one, no to the other. He also said that the 50% chance of getting it if you have a 1st degree relative figure is overrated, that if I live to be 90 I'd have a 50% chance. He said most like I WILL NOT get AD.
That's a relief, right?
My dad ended up having a good time and would have stayed in there talking to the students longer. He's always liked talking to people; that's why he was such a good car salesman for so many years.
I gave the lady doctor (I don't know how to spell her name and I'm sure my mom says it wrong-McAvoy? maybe) this URL. That was the whole point of me coming. I've been documenting this thing for so long. It's about time I get to talk in person about it.
I only hope that it helps one of these students become a doctor who specializes in geriatric mind diseases/dementia and that person finds a total cure. Even if it's too late for my dad. It won't be too late for someone else's dad.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

68 "what's her name?"

Just a quickie.
But a sad one.
I went over my parents' last night, as usual on Fridays, to do a puzzle and have tea. My mom said that after I dropped my dad off from the Home Depot and pet store expedition he said, "What's her name again?"
At least he still knows I'm his daughter even if he doesn't know my name.

Friday, April 07, 2006

67 the orange thing, and going fishing

The head doctor of the study never called me back. So I'm just going to go on Tuesday.

Last Friday I borrowed the leaf blower and its cord from my parents. I worked in the yard a little on Saturday, but the leaves are all matted down in the gardens and the leaf blower doesn't do much. All of our rakes have 1 or 2 tines. They look like the fence in front of a haunted house. So I haven't returned the leaf blower yet. Yesterday I called my mom to tell her something that happened where we used to work and she said my dad just asked her "Where's the orange thing and the other thing?" (meaning the orange cord and the leaf blower) and she said that I had it and he said "She always takes our stuff why can't she get her own?" Nice.

I had to go to Home Depot (to buy a rake with teeth!) and to the petstore this afternoon. I figured I might as well bring my dad, get him out of my mom's hair for an hour or so. I picked him up and we're driving down the street and he says "Why couldn't you go by yourself?" Actually, it would be easier for me to go by myself! The point is to bring him places. I just said, "I like your company and I thought you might want to hang out with me for a while instead of Mommy." No response.
At Home Depot, I choose a small-ish all-metal rake whose tag insisted its tines cannot fall it out. Hmph. We'll see. The only other rake they had was a larger one (the size I wanted) but it was plastic. The plastic ones break. My father says "I was just here. Yesterday. Or maybe today." "Really? What did you buy?" "I don't know." We go inside to find a nozzle for the hose. He says, "We have two big rakes, really big. One's green." (of course) He continues, "You should get one of those." "Where did you get them? Did you get them here? Do you remember where in the store they were?" "I don't know." I ask a lady, she says the only rakes are outside, which is where I got mine. I pick out an industrial strength nozzle (I'm so sick of buying cheap stuff and having it break) while my father mutters about his rakes and takes mine and pretends to rake with it, evaluates it and proclaims that "Maybe it's okay, I don't know."
I lose him when I go back outside to pay. He's mesmerized by a display of plant fertilizer. "Do you need some of that?" "I don't know if it's the kinds she likes." I take out the phone, call my mom, she says to get it. I'm juggling phone, purse, rake and nozzle. My dad comes over: "You're dropping everything." "That's why I brought you." I get the fertilizer, we pay and head up the hill to the new and bigger pet store where I like to get my fish.
As we walk in, my father is talking about his sneakers. These are his number 3 sneakers (whatever that means). They are an ancient pair of Nike Air with the heels worn completely off and the key elements colored green. "I colored these you know. They were all plain before." Tactfully, I say, "They're very nice. " "You think so?" No. "Yes."
The boy who waits on me (and he is a boy, maybe 16 years old) is stupified by the fact that I chose a spotted corydoras. There's 3 of them in the tank. There's no price for them written on any tank. I explain that they usually sell them to me for the same price as the albino cories. He looks through a thick book saying, "I don't know what they are." "It's a spotted corydoras," I say again. Finally that's resolved. Then I want a baby pleco. There's some issue with the kid's finger and the water, he keeps yelping like he's been bitten, and finally puts a glove on and catches my little sucker fish. I ask him two more questions: can I buy one of the little pots to put plants in underwater (uh...I think they only come with plants in them?) and could the slightly low pH of my tank have killed my other pleco? (Uh, let me get someone).
Then my dad and I wander to the puppy area and look at puppies. They have a red short-haired dachsund. Our Alf was red and long haired. I say, "I miss Alf. Don't you miss Alf?" Grunt. I point at the puppy. "That's about how big Alf was when we got him, remember?" My father looks at the puppy and says "We had one of those, didn't we? We had it for a long time." I say, "Yeah, 15 years," and I want to cry because he's forgotten Alf, who he loved so much.
On the way home, I say, "Did you have a good time?" and he says, "I thought we were going fishing."

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

66 re-invitation

My mom finally got through the to right person and I'm going to be allowed to go to the meeting next week with the doctors who want to meet with real Alzheimer's patients and families.
For some reason I have to call the head doctor and talk to her first. I know I met her when my dad went for the first time. I left her a message at lunchtime.
So I'm pretty excited. I have a lot to say. Did you know that? :P

Today is the Mayan New Year: 0 Pop. I hope it's better than last year.