by Kathy Martin for CWF Courier:
Several families have confessed that in retrospect they viewed in shock the beginnings of life-altering memory loss and confusion eight or more years earlier. And yet many couldn’t face it. The span of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders is two to 20 years, with the average being eight.
Barry Reisberg developed the functional global deterioration scale, which stages individuals with ADRD from one to seven, with seven being the most advanced. Each stage has very specific signs and symptoms, which makes it practical for families to understand where their loved one is on the road of this wild ride.
A man in crisis described his wife recently. When she looks in the mirror, she sees an intruder, screams at the image and strikes at the mirror. If you are a care provider and this occurs, remove all mirrors until this phase passes. The same may occur with a window reflection.
Dejectedly, he describes his spouse of 60 years not recognizing him even though he provides for her every need. At times she shrieks at him to hustle out before she calls the police. She shakes her fist and chases out the neighbor man who is voluntarily mowing the lawn. This husband fears he can no longer care for her at home. His wife is in stage six of the disease. He doesn’t have a plan or practical techniques to help lessen the severity of the troubling behavior. He still doesn’t grasp why she behaves this way.
On the other hand, I met with a delightful couple in their home to talk about the husband’s situation. He has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. His wife manages their health with a marvelous sense of humor, quiet tones and an easy-going manner.
Her husband was a brilliant businessman and an avid volunteer. She has arranged a den with a desk, file cabinets, business papers, blueprints and a sampling of many awards he’s received for his good works. He spends hours each day picking up objects and patiently examining them. She gives him purpose and pride through this set-up.
She smiles with chagrin describing the night he urinated in the bathroom sink. When you think about a white porcelain commode or a sink of the same description, it makes sense. This is normal behavior for his stage six. He periodically stains his underwear and then hides them or throws them away. Even at this advanced stage of ADRD, the husband responds with the shame of an adult who has had an accident. His wife has discovered his hiding places; in the back of his dresser drawers, corners of their closet and the garbage. She discreetly removes and cleans.