The Long Goodbye
“My husband, has stage 6 Alzheimer’s disease. He lives in a mental fog most of the time. He’s lost most of his language skills and has a hard time communicating. He still has moments of lucidity. He can make short sentences and say things like “I love you” and “We are so blessed.”
But in between those moments, he’s lost. He wanders. He can’t communicate. He doesn’t understand what others say to him”
Kim Campbell speaking recently about her husband GLEN CAMPBELL who once sold more records thanThe Beatles with hit songs such as Galveston, Witchita Lineman, By the Time I Get to Phoenix andRhinestone Cowboy.
Today, Campbell who’s 78, is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s, a devastating illness that affects more than 27 million people world wide. While typically, most sufferers are over 65, in rare cases it has affected people who were much younger than that.
Alzheimer’s is the more prevalent form of dementia, which is loss of cognitive ability. Amongst its symptoms are confusion, loss of short term memory, mood swings, personality changes, language difficulties and the collapse of bodily functions. Sufferers however can live with Alzheimer’s for as long as ten years.
There are no known cures for Alzheimer’s amongst whose most notable suffers have been Hazel Hawke, former wife of Ex Labor PM, Bob Hawke; actors, Charlton Heston and Jack Lord; champion boxer, Sugar Ray Robinson and former US President Ronald Reagan whose wife Nancy famously referred to the disease as ‘The Long Goodbye’
Geriatricians say that whilst a number of anti-Alzheimer’s medications have been tried, there’s been no evidence that any has had the capacity to arrest or even delay the progress of the disease. However they say early diagnosis is critical in extending the life of the affected individual and that there are a number of ways that may help prevent the onset of the disease.
Take a 30 minute walk each day
Eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables
Lower high blood pressure
Maintain a healthy weight
Seek treatment for depression
Challenge your brain by doing crossword puzzles, playing chess, or Scrabble
As with many incurable diseases, some people will sometimes be persuaded to experiment with unorthodox medications and supplements that promise to prevent Alzheimer’s. Doctors say these so called treatments may be unsafe, a waste of money, or both and that people should consult their GP before going down that road.
No matter who you are, what you’ve accomplished, what your financial situation is – when you’re dealing with a parent with Alzheimer’s, you yourself feel helpless. The parent can’t work, can’t live alone, and is totally dependent, like a toddler. As the disease unfolds, you don’t know what to expect.
Caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is a situation that can utterly consume the lives and well-being of the people giving care, just as the disorder consumes its victims.
Over 35 million people worldwide struggle with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Yet, despite the prevalence of Alzheimer’s, there’s still a powerful, stigma-fueled taboo attached to the disease.
In the minds of most, Alzheimer’s is a slow death sentence that gradually morphs a vibrant human being into a pitiable shell of their former selves—a zombie-like figure, sitting in a chair and staring out the window. Those with the disease hesitate to divulge their diagnosis to friends (and even family), for fear of being subjected to unintentional prejudice and isolation.
But the only individuals who really understand what life with Alzheimer’s is really like are those who are living with the disease—the patients, and their family members.
The debilitating haze of Alzheimer’s disease began its capricious descent on Hazel Hawke in 2001 and three years later she noted in typically laconic Australian style on her 75th birthday: ”It’s a bugger. It’s just bad luck. It’s an illness which is unpredictable, and when it comes you’ve just got to cope with it. It’s like losing your skin or something.” With a laugh, she added: ”But, in fact, you lose some of your head … your works.”