Katherine C. - Whatever It Takes


My mother was a PhD in human physiology, played bridge, tennis, all the "right things" to prevent Alzheimer's, and nevertheless watched her "hard drive" slowly fail as she turned 75. Her own mother had the disease about the same age, so my mother lived in fear of a similar fate. As it was, it would be 15 long years, before she was finally released from the cage of this disease. I want all of you to know that we were able to keep her home for an additional five years because of a much- maligned drug in the news these days - Zyprexa (Olanzapine).

After several years of steady decline, she turned desperate, no matter our loving care - she tried to leap from upstairs windows, drive the car, etc and when gently prevented, she struck me, my father, whoever got in her way. We knew she was suffering terribly, and did not take this behavior personally. Instead, my dad and I went to a psychiatrist, and after trying many interventions and medications, the only one that worked - and worked spectacularly - was Zyprexa. My mother suddenly was a happier person again, took walks with me, enjoyed meals - and we were able to keep her home for several more years because of this drug, before eventually placing her in a loving Assisted Living facility.

Don't let the nay-sayers discourage you from trying various medications!!! Until we find a cure, we should be minimizing the suffering of those afflicted with this disease. Whatever medicine makes them happy. So what if it shortens their endless decline by a month or two or even a year (the overriding concern of recent articles on this drug) - at least our loved ones are more content (and their caregivers) during the long, terrible journey.

Meantime, I salute the concept of getting angry over the lack of adequate research for the prevention! I am tired of cancer, HIV, etc getting the lions share of public attention and funding, when so many are faced with this silent epidemic of Alzheimer's. We are (or have been) a docile lot - and too busy and overwhelmed with caregiving to be pushy advocates. This needs to change, and I am excited about the work of USAgainstAlzheimer's. The photo is of my mother teaching nursing students as a Professor at the University of Washington, a few years before she lost her very fine mind to Alzheimer's.

Tags: Sons and Daughters