Ten Things (besides Memory) Alzheimer's Steals from Its Victims

First Known Alzheimer's Patient

Auguste Deter diagnosed in 1901.  Anonymous.  In public domain, published before July 1, 1909.
Auguste Deter diagnosed in 1901. Anonymous. In public domain, published before July 1, 1909. | Source

My mother, an Alzheimer’s victim, receives visits from someone who is repeatedly offended by her backchats. The visitor thinks that my mother’s rudeness is inconsistent with her seventy years of church membership, which should have made her into a sweet, gentle soul by now.

It does not help to blame my mother, neither to blame her accuser; the one lacks the capability to reason, the other lacks the facts.

My total knowledge of Alzheimer’s before it entered my household was that it steals the memory of its victims. Many other individuals know just as little. Now, after years of close encounter with the disease, plus efforts to learn more about it, many other personal losses to the victim have become obvious. This list of ten is by no means all-inclusive.


Alzheimer's disease leads to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. Over time, the brain shrinks dramatically, affecting nearly all its functions.

— Alz.org

(1) Caution

It is certain that when my mother was capable of exercising caution, she withheld thoughts like those which she now puts into offensive words. However, when Alzheimer’s begins to talk it has no regard for caution. Carol O’Dell warns on Caring.com that the rude remarks may be easier to handle than the silence which the caregiver will face when the Alzheimer’s patient no longer communicates.


(2) Cheerfulness

The American Alzheimer’s Association offers the expert opinion that depression plagues 40% of Alzheimer’s victims. Sad, hopeless, discouraged or tearful are the usual descriptions of their mood. They withdraw into social isolation; and suggestions to cheer up are usually not helpful. Caregiver or group support may help some; others may require professional services.


(3) Clarity

Alzheimer’s patients are confused about where they are. They want to go home, even when they’re at home. They may interpret a noise, or the presence of a stranger as an effort to hurt them. They search around them for objects like purses, walking canes, and even pets which they think were in their possession a minute ago (but weren’t). Psychosis may account for voices they hear in the next room or outdoors, and sometimes in their confusion they wander off.


(4) Cleanliness

My mother maintained a home which was beautiful as well as clean, and so was she. Now, Alzheimer’s has stolen her sense of cleanliness. Her confusion results in struggles between us to have her shower and change her clothes. We no longer talk about flushing the toilet.

Hearing a caregiver in a home for the elderly shouting to a ninety-year old woman that she was nasty, it became obvious that even some caregivers still have much to learn. Respect for the patient cancels disgust for the situation which Alzheimer's creates.


(5) Comfort

There are many issues which can create a feeling of discomfort in Alzheimer’s patients. Among them are:

  • Unfamiliarity with the surroundings;
  • Voices they alone can hear;
  • Fear of the dark;
  • Nighttime wakefulness;
  • Dry mouth caused by some medications;
  • Other physical discomfort which they are not always able to explain.

Easing the discomfort requires that caregivers pay attention and make necessary changes to accommodate the changing needs of the patient.


(6) Connectedness

Recently, my daughter came to visit. Some days she and my mother connected, but one day my mother asked her name and promised to remember it since it was the name of someone in her family. There are also days when she addresses me as “Miss.” The disconnection is more than a memory problem. When patients do not connect, they refuse to trust and they reject company.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, one third (33%) of the people with dementia said they lost friends following a diagnosis.

Photo by Jamain
Photo by Jamain | Source

(7) Conscience

We expect that sense of right and wrong will improve in children as they grow older. In Alzheimer’s patients, that sense is on the decline. Sometimes they understand what they are doing; sometimes they do not.

Biblical Medical Ethics, edited by Ed Payne, M.D. counsels: “If he [the patient] has no consciousness of his actions because of his disease, then his conscience is not ‘active’ and he should not be held accountable for his actions.” The article further suggests that it is better for caregivers to err on the side of greater rather than insufficient understanding.


(8) Control

Alzheimer’s steals the control gradually but continually. Patients are forced to give up responsibilities of driving, shopping, managing finances and maintaining the home. Activities of daily living (ADL) such as bathing, grooming and dressing become difficult then impossible. They eventually revert to the childish dependence on assistance with feeding and toileting.

When patients lose control of their expertise, they also lose their sense of worth. Caregivers have the additional task of helping them feel loved and valuable.


From the Patient's Perspective

"Do not lose your patience with me,

Do not scold or curse or cry.

I can’t help the way I’m acting,

Can’t be different though I try."

See the whole poem written by Owen Darnel

(9) Conversation

Verbal communication becomes almost impossible when patients lose the capability of expressing themselves accurately. Plus, they very often misunderstand what the other person is trying to communicate. For example, my mother will respond to a request like “Can you please take your cane off the table?” with an angry defense that the cane is hers. She might continue for the next five minutes, listing other things that belong to her which other people are using.

Still, it does not feel right to avoid conversation altogether. Caregivers will learn to pay more attention to the emotions behind the words than to the words themselves. For example, when my mother gets angry about other people using her belongings, she may be asking for assurance that her possessions are safe and that she will have them when she needs them for her personal use.


(10) Credibility

It is easy to think that my mother tells lies, but that was not characteristic of her before Alzheimer’s. She has told several different stories about who stole her money, her clothes and her dishes. Some of the stories were so convincing that there seemed no reason to doubt their authenticity. It became obvious to me that her credibility was gone when she began to accuse me wrongfully.


Conclusion

For everyone of these losses to the Alzheimer's victims, there are also losses to the relatives and caregivers. It is like watching a robber in slow motion stealing our stuff. Let it not steal our love.


Alzheimer's Facts and Figures in Less than Two Minutes

More by this Author


Comments 58 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 14 months ago from Olympia, WA

My best friend has this disease.....I'm so very tired of Alzheimers...it is insidious and vicious, and I want it eradicated as soon as possible.

All true....excellent article and for me, sad. :)


lambservant profile image

lambservant 14 months ago from Pacific Northwest

This is amazingly helpful, though rather heart rending. You are doing people a great service by educating them on this terrible disease.


Diana Lee profile image

Diana Lee 14 months ago from Potter County, Pa.

I hope you don't mind that I shared this with one of my Facebook friends. You have a good collection of things we should be aware of when dealing with victims of Alzheimers. Good hub.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Bill, I'm tired too. I hope it is the saddest reality I ever have to face. Best, in the circumstances to your friend and thank you for sharing.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Lori. There's so much I did not know, and the people I ask to sit with my mother still don't know. Figure it's time to talk.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Diana, thank you for reading and sharing. Hope you and your friend find the article useful.


Lipnancy profile image

Lipnancy 14 months ago from Hamburg, New York

Not only does it steal from the victims, but it steals from the family members as well.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Well said, Nancy. Thanks for underscoring the loss to family members.


janshares profile image

janshares 14 months ago from Washington, DC

So sad, so true, MsDora. You strike the perfect balance between personal and informative when you share in your hubs, particularly when you talk about Alzheimer's. It is tough to see the way it affects the patient and the caregiver/family member. I appreciate this article. Two thumbs up.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Jan. From the counselor in you, your comment means much to me. Hope someone finds it helpful in some way.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 14 months ago from The Beautiful South

It is so strange to find this as my first reading on here today Dora. I was thinking about this very thing all day, how people can change in their end days through no fault of their own. Such a shame but of course we cannot hold them accountable but make the best of it and certainly we would never want to agitate anyone who acts negative in anyway but be cheerful and pray for them whether we expect change or not.

My mom use to always think I was wearing her clothes or she would keep the pretty new shoes I bought her in front of the TV so she knew no one would take them. I could have gotten mad she might have thought I was a thief but I chose to be happy she loved something I bought her so much.

I hate to talk about your mother's friend but common sense tells us she is the one with the real problem if she is an intelligent woman and I would not allow anyone like that to further bother me or my mother; but that is just me. Life is too short.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Jackie, thank you for sharing. The longer we live and the more suffering we see, the more we hesitate to blame people for anything at all. Alzheimer's does so many different things to different victims. Although it may not be obvious, I'm beginning to think that there is a blessing for those of us who have to deal with it firsthand.


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 14 months ago from london

A tough one, My friend. What can I say? I have seen some of this in my profession. My empathy to you and others.

Our Lord works in mysterious ways. The mode of sorrow never sleeps, yet the joy of Grace ever remains awake. Continue ...

I send you warm hugs and a hearty embrace, while wishing you an extra flow of His mercy and fortitude.

What do you think about writing one on Coping With an Alzheimer Patient? Bring out your side of it. Much Love.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 14 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

It must be very difficult for you to experience your mother's gradual decline to this illness. I have a close friend that I visit frequently whose husband is going through a similar process. He used to recognize me when I came to visit, but not any more. My friend indicates that he continues to recognize her, but she is dealing with many of the issues listed in this article. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Manatita, thanks for your kind sentiments. I do consider writing some more on Alzheimer's. I appreciate the nudge.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks for your comment, Denise. There are still so many individuals who have very little knowledge of what's happening. I believe that other people need to understand some of the nitty-gritty of the condition.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 14 months ago from Dallas, Texas

Oh dear, MsDora, how difficult this must be for you to go through. Reading your list I see that my Mom has most of the symptoms that you've described. She has recently started fabricating stories and like you've said, they are so convincing that people believe them. She also thinks people are taking her things, yet, when questioned, nothing is missing. At ninety, she is in relatively good health but these lapses in memory and losses of her sense of caution, clarity and cleanliness are deeply disturbing.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Hi Peg, I appreciate your concern. Thank you very much. I realize that this is the nature of Alzheimer's and as difficult as it is for the caregivers, I still think it is more difficult for the victims who cannot even figure out what's happening to them. We just have to pray for the strength equal to the task.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 14 months ago from southern USA

Dear MsDora, you are a wonderful, wise and patient daughter ...and strong too. It is the hardest thing in this life to go through in seeing our beloved mothers suffering with such a disease. My mother had dementia and always had to have her purse with her no matter. For some reason, it brought her much comfort.

This article is most helpful and full of insight into this terrible disease. Thank you for sharing.

God bless you.

Sharing everywhere


North Wind profile image

North Wind 14 months ago from The World (for now)

It is a strange thing to say but Alzheimer's only made me love more. Everything you listed is true. I have experienced it all. The accusations, the strange tales, the sadness but somehow they gave me the opportunity to do everything without the motivation of thanks. It was a great pleasure to get them out of their sad days with music that they loved and a little bit of dancing. It was fun listening to their stories that were not true and participating. Staying with them during the night watches and keeping them company was a blessing.

I know the terrible thing that Alzheimer's does but I cannot help but feel greatful for it because I saw how it brought me close to my loved ones and gave me opportunity to give back to them as they gave to me.

The struggle that they go through can be minimized with love and most of their days can be happy days as I have seen.

P.S. The backchat is one of the aspects I most looked forward to. They were shocking and entertaining. Usually when I congratulated them on a spectacular insult they felt wonderful about it and their mood changed for the better for the rest of the day. I know that my case is not the case for everyone but going with their flow usually helps them and makes them feel as though they are floating rather than fighting against the current.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 14 months ago from New Delhi, India

What a heart touching hub! I can relate to it, since my closest relative has it. And I can understand your feelings for your mother when you are writing this.

People affected with Alzheimers must be dealt with lots of love, care and compassion. It changes the whole personality of what he/ she earlier was. They are able to recognize only those whom they see everyday. Others who meet after a long time, howsoever close they may have been in the past, have to be introduced.

Sometimes they fail to understand which time of the day it is, or whether they just had lunch or dinner and things like that.

It is really sad, very sad for the loved ones to see their loved ones in such a state of mind.

They become possessive of 2-3 of their belongings such as their walking stick, shoes etc. and get angry if someone touches it.

My prayers to all those affected by this condition and may God give enough strength to them and the family.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Faith, thanks for your encouragement including the sharing about your mother. Blessings on you, too.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

NorthWind, I just love your attitude. Yes, I also find humor in the backchats, and I have to give myself permission to laugh. Your comment blesses me more than you know. Thanks.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Chitrangada, thank you for your encouragement and your prayers for strength. I appreciate you.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 14 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

How marvelous to read such a hub. Oh of course not about the suffering of the disease. But in every word of this hub there is caring and thoughtful consideration. Someone has taken the time and effort to not only help their mother but also many many more folks. I learned in reading this, not only about truths of the disease but also about how to love more fully. Thank you Dora.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Eric, you always encourage me with your kind words. I appreciate you. Thanks for reading and supporting.


Romeos Quill profile image

Romeos Quill 14 months ago from Lincolnshire, England

Good afternoon MsDora;

I saw these news stories which seem to offer some encouragement in the fight against this terrible affliction which you may, or may not already be aware of. The first link is from a story posted a couple of days' ago and the second is from today's newspaper;

Viz;-

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/world-alzheimers-day-2015...

and,

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/secret-behind...

There are many on here who love you.

Take Care;

R.Q.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Ahhhh Romeos. You're special to me, too. Thanks for your love and the links. I will make use of them.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 14 months ago from Central Florida

Dora, it must be so hard to watch a loved one become victim to the robbery of this awful disease. I would imagine it's even harder for the victim to be trapped inside a mind that doesn't respond to the signals it once did.

Your article reminds us that we must exercise patience and understanding. And most of all - let love prevail.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Shauna. "Most of all!" That's where the strength comes from.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 14 months ago from Shelton

it's such a sad disease, disorder, whatever you need to call it. Once the memory is gone from a human vessel so is life.. that's what I believe.. thank you so much for sharing this piece.. it must have really shaken you while writing this bless you


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 14 months ago from Wisconsin Rapids

My oldest brother died in his erly 60's. He had acquired this desease which none of us had heard of until then. My sister now has it and it is sad to contemplate. My other brother died last year abd may have had it. He had other brain problems from a tumor, so we do not know. I pray that I escape it.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Frank, thanks for reading and expressing your concern. It really is dehumanizing, but it is not complete loss of life. Still, hard to take.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Don, please do not get frightened. Take care of yourself. Be intentional about proper nutrition, adequate exercise and rest, and laugh a lot. Enjoy today and pray instead of worry. Best to you, going forward.


DDE profile image

DDE 14 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

A well shared hub with many interesting facts. A topic that would help many individuals in such situations.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Devika, good to see you. Thanks for your encouraging feedback.


annart profile image

annart 14 months ago from SW England

You have highlighted all these losses expertly, Dora. Such a terrible thing for the victim and for the loved ones/carers. Their characters change but now and then we see flashes of clarity, whilst they last. We have to hang on to those and just talk and love as before. You are obviously a caring, understanding and loving person.

Ann


Wendy L Henderson profile image

Wendy L Henderson 14 months ago from PA

This is such a sad and terrible disease. Thanks for making me aware that there is more to it then just memory loss.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 14 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

Thank you Dora, for teaching us about this terrible disease that is so misunderstood. My heart goes out to your mother and to you. Your love for her shows in every word!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks Ann. You give good counsel on hanging on to the glimpses of clarity. It is such a blessed event when they happen.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Hi Wendy. Thanks for joining my HubCircle. Perhaps you shared my lack of knowledge about all the other elements the disease steals from the victim. Glad to share this information. See you around.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Hi Bill. When I think I'm getting a grip on some aspect of the disease, that aspect changes and there's more to learn. Your kind sentiments encourage me. Thanks!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 14 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

I'm so very sorry that you and your mother are going through this experience, Dora. It must be so difficult for you both. I love the last sentence in this hub, which is very important.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Alicia. Love is a pacifier. It never fails.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 14 months ago from Stillwater, OK

Alzheimer's is a tough disease, especially when the folks know that things are amiss with them. It must be a horror to realize that your are growing inept. This was definitely a necessary article.


travel_man1971 profile image

travel_man1971 14 months ago from Bicol, Philippines

I lived with an aunt (an educator) for a year suffering from this disease. Patience became my greatest virtue. Thank you, Ms. Dora for expounding this topic.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Deb, this disease is no fun at all. Thanks for commenting and affirming the necessity of the article.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Ireno, the patience of caregivers and everyone else concerned is really tried. Glad you survived with more patience. Thanks for your comment.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 14 months ago from USA

This was sad but well done. My great grandmother used to tell very improbable stories. She had many of the cognitive and emotional signs you describe and it was hard to recall sometimes the woman that she was when we were surrounded by the illness. I'm sorry about your mother's condition as well as how some people respond to her.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Flourish. I appreciate your kind sentiment. Writing helps me sift through the emotions. Thanks for reading.


jgshorebird profile image

jgshorebird 14 months ago from Earth

Good info. Thank you.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 14 months ago from The Caribbean Author

JG, I appreciate your feedback.


Lareene profile image

Lareene 13 months ago from Atlanta, GA

My mother has alzheimer's and I too know these things in fact and in deed. Well put.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 13 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Lareene, I see we're having the same experience with our mothers. I pray the same strength for you that I pray for myself. Thanks for commenting.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 8 months ago from Nashville Tn.

Each time I speak to my sister by phone (daily) by the time we say goodbye I'm completely drained. I love her so much. Your hubs about Alzheimer's are a huge help. You are an angel. Thank you dearest Dora!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 8 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Audrey, your compassion and patience will grow as you communicate with your sister. Your love will strengthen your ability to comfort her. Prayers and blessings for you both.


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 8 months ago from Texas

Let it not steal our love. It takes the love of people for the patient if not careful and the love of family and friends for one another as they struggle to understand what is happening. You have a beautiful, loving soul. That is clear to me. My prayers are with you.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 8 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Shanmarie, you're very kind. Thanks for your encouragement.

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