By Abdul Hakim-Shabazz
Although I don’t celebrate Christmas, I did get an early present this year.
A couple years ago my mother was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My siblings and I had noticed earlier that she was getting a little more forgetful, but we all just attributed that to getting older. However, things were getting to the point where her behavior was getting a little too worrisome, so my Dad and I took her to the doctor.
Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org.
It turns out that she had Alzheimer’s and that it had probably started in 2009. (That date will be important later).
Since then it has been a tough road, which I usually don’t discuss publicly. What I’ve learned in this ordeal is that Alzheimer’s patients usually don’t know they have it, which is why it is more difficult on the family than on them. I also learned that my mother doesn’t like to sit still, nor does she like to be told what to do. (Imagine that!)
We are fortunate enough that there have been enough of us to look after her, but unfortunately things are at the point where a facility that can look after her 24/7 is going to be in order. This is something I’ve been working on for a while and I can assure you it is no fun.
Apparently I am not alone. According to the Alzheimer’s Association…
- More than 5 million people are living with disease.
- Every 67 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
- Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
- More than 500,000 individuals are dying because of Alzheimer’s.
- One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or some other type of dementia.
- More than two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are women and after 60 they have a one in six chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
In other words, this is not a fun disease by any stretch.
However, during our trip to Chicago this past weekend to mark my mother’s 72nd birthday, we found her in great spirits and, while she didn’t recognize everyone, her cheerful demeanor and pleasant smile made the perfect gift. I’m also fortunate enough to have a wife who cares for my mother as much as I do. That is why I think it’s ironic I was married the same year my mother’s condition began.
And that is one of the things I learned dealing with my mother as well as talking with other people who have family members with Alzheimer’s. When dealing with a person with Alzheimer’s you basically have to let them be them and meet them where they are. For example, when my mother would talk about going to her home town of Champaign, Illinois, to pick up her children, we simply tell her okay and that we’ll all head down in a while. And usually a few minutes later she has moved on to something else.
It took a while for us to get that point, but once we learned to roll with the punches, things got a lot easier.
Now, with that said, I am well aware that the future will not be easy. There is no cure right now for Alzheimer’s and eventually the disease takes a toll on the other parts of the body. But in the meantime, we do what we can, and I go forward, knowing the memories I have of the most kind, yet firm, woman I will ever know will be with me always.
And each day I get to spend with the woman who told me that if I was going to run my mouth to go get paid for it, is a gift that will last forever.
Abdul is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at email@example.com.