Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Tale of Two Women, Afraid of Alzheimer’s


Contrasting the lives of two senior women, both of which lost their own mother to Alzheimer’s. Their concerns about getting the disease are valid and each is handling her concerns differently.
            Lily’s Story
Lily’s mother died at age 86 in the mid 1980’s after several years of struggle with a form of Alzheimer’s that involved very difficult and troubling behaviors. Now that Lily has turned 70, her concerns of ending up like her mother have become very real.
What Lily is Doing Right
Lily has started trying to adjust her diet to better manage her Type 2 Diabetes and has begun to take more supplements to support her health, including fish oil and B-vitamins. She reads daily and usually talks on the phone often with good friends and relatives. Lily keeps up with regular check-ups at her Primary Care physician and a Naturopathic Physician. Lily gets on a computer daily and checks-in with family on Facebook and writes emails to them. Lily also speaks two different languages, her native Spanish and second language English, and uses both on a daily basis.
What Lily Could Improve Upon
Lily has not set up any advanced directives, a will, a trust nor has she designated either a power of attorney or healthcare representative to any of her children. Although Lily has saved up some money she would like to will to her children to prevent them any unnecessary burden, she has not set up a trust for them. Without these measures, if/when Lily develops Alzheimer’s, one of her children will need to seek a Guardianship in order to make proper care decisions as well as a Conservatorship to make financial decisions for her. Guardianship and Conservatorship are complicated and costly to process through the court system, which will end up being a burden on her family, which is exactly what she hopes to avoid. 
Lily could benefit by tying up the loose ends pertaining to her estate and final wishes now instead of leaving them undone. Lily could also improve her cognitive skills by playing more games like crossword puzzles and Sudoku. Lily could also focus on improving her psychological state, as she often seems to get depressed and emotional. Lily should also focus on more exercise (which she does not do), as it has proven beneficial for the health of the brain.
Violet’s Story
Violet’s mom died at age 92 after fighting Alzheimer’s for 15 years. Violet is now in her early 70’s. At the end, Violet’s mom did not remember her or her sister. Violet said her mom would simply stare off into space when she visited. Violet never understood how her mother could develop Alzheimer’s after being a bookkeeper for 40 years. Violet does not believe the research that points to keeping mentally fit to avoid Alzheimer’s because her mom kept her brain sharp with numbers, and President Reagan ran the country, and before that memorized lines as an actor, and he still got the disease.
 What Violet is Doing Right
Violet eats modestly and avoids sugars. She walks around her neighborhood daily and gets regular checkups at her Primary Care Physician. (Violet is fortunate to have no underlying diseases that require managing.) She takes part in hobbies she loves on a daily basis including scrap booking, reading the newspaper cover to cover and repairing antique items. She and her son eat dinner together frequently and usually take one or two vacations a year together. Violet meets up with friends on a semi-regular basis for coffee or lunch. Violet often goes to movie premiers to collect autographs. She follows politics and debates ideas with friends and family. She keeps abreast of all the current news and events. Violet also uses a computer frequently and emails friends.
Violet has already completed elaborate advanced directives and instructions for her son. She has inventoried all her collections with descriptions, names and values so he can sell things of value after she’s gone.
Conclusion
Clearly, Violet is better prepared for developing Alzheimer’s than Lily. Although both women are afraid of developing the disease and are close in age, they aren’t working to prevent it as fervently. It’s hard to say why Lily is less prepared than Violet. Perhaps the taboo surrounding open end-of-life discussions is at play. Perhaps making life changes at age 70 feels too overwhelming for Lily.  Nevertheless, Lily and others could all learn a lot from Violet’s choices. 
Does any one have a "Lily" in their life that needs a little guidance or support? 
How did you help?

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