Have you heard the one about the frog and boiling water? Start Kermit in a put of cold water, then throw in boiling water and he jumps out into Miss Piggy’s protecting arms!!! However, put Kermie in cold water and gradually heat the water to boil and he is too busy singing Rainbow Connection to notice until he is fit to be served. Yes…this preaches and (climate) politics well, but it is actually completely untrue. The University of Washington, in a piece called “FROG FABLE BROUGHT TO BOIL” dispelled this whopper for good. Others have too. However, it sounds soooo good.
I really wish it was true because it would illustrate my piece perfectly today. My observation: I really don’t notice changes in mom all that much these days. She has seemed the same for months now. As a bit of review, here is her dementia story, if you will:
A little over 10 years ago, after losing her folks (separately but fairly close together) and over an already stressful period, mom had a substantial behavioral health event/break: she struggled with depression and a few other similar diagnoses. She had a pretty challenging childhood and, looking back on it, she probably had these concerns prior, but they only became daily activity challenging for the most part at this time. Mom visited an inpatient hospital and a couple weeks and came out in much better shape mentally and emotionally. One other seemingly small thing came out of this challenge was that she was sent home with a diagnosis that included what felt to us like a throw-in statement compared to the rest: she had “a mild form of dementia”.
Mom had always been a physically active person and stepped up her mental fitness game. She did brain games on paper and on the computer (that she hated). To the rest of us and apparently to her doctor, this progressing dementia was back-burnered (without the frog) and we just went on living life. She seemed the same for about 7 or even 8 years although the stories got more jumbled here and there and she would repeat herself in a conversation. Then, seemingly overnight (but only because we didn’t notice), her memory declined quickly and her anxiety increased dramatically. It may have seemed more so than it is, but it seemed to be a step-wise progression of the disease. She then took several of these steps worse over the last couple years resulting in her being unsafe at home. We, with deep regret/sadness, but knowing it was the only way to keep her safe, placed her in full-time memory care in October 2018. She had several step-wise declines, often as a result of falls it seemed. Today she has leveled again and, while she is on hospice, she is doing about the same, or it seems.
Her later diagnosis was what seems to be a mixed dementia. There is a vascular component to it and Alzheimer’s is the other distasteful ingredient in the shepherd’s pie that is our little topic. Vascular dementia, and Alzheimer’s to a lesser extent, is known to commonly have a stair-step decline and that is what I see with mom when I step back from the situation. However, when the dreaded Facebook memories come up and show me posts from last year at this day, it is shocking how much as changed. I guess my point is hindsight is 20/20 and we don’t always notice the change until the water gets hot. I am trying not to beat myself up for not seeing her decline years ago and pushing hard for her to be on the class of drugs that extends the early stage…but it is hard to see changes sometimes.
What is your experience with the disease? Is it a progressive decline or a stair step/step-wise decline? Do you see change slowly and your loved one that only comes every few months is shocked at the change you didn’t see? It doesn’t really matter, but these Facebook memories just shock me every single day. I will post some more here, or just go to my Facebook feed and see my shares. Shocking. Sad. Real…
Update: Mom had a great day yesterday again. I will see her this afternoon again for some more Andy Griffith. 🙂