Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14, 2010

So Dad’s test is done.  The results, although contradictory to the other doctors’ we have had, are pretty good.  Dad definitely has Alzheimer’s but as to the particular stage, well that is still to be debated.  His primary area of concern is memory.  Remind you now that Alzheimer’s not only affects memory but also daily function, reasoning, logic, skills, and more.  Dad did great on some of the tests but his short-term memory has difficulty.  What is short-term memory?  Thanks to Medicine.net for this great explanation:

Short-term memory: A system for temporarily storing and managing information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension. Short-term memory is involved in the selection, initiation, and termination of information-processing functions such as encoding, storing, and retrieving data.

One test of short-term memory is memory span, the number of items, usually words or numbers, that a person can hold onto and recall. In a typical test of memory span, an examiner reads a list of random numbers aloud at about the rate of one number per second. At the end of a sequence, the person being tested is asked to recall the items in order. The average memory span for normal adults is 7.

Short-term memory is also termed recent or working memory.
But how LONG are we talking?  Is this a few hours, a few days, weeks or years?  That is another issue for great debate and varies patient to patient. For Dad, it seems to span a few years.  That is to say that he has difficulty recalling names and places about five years ago.  Before that the memories are pretty much still intact. 

We will return to the Neurologist in a few weeks and hopefully then we will have at least enough answers to make sure we are doing the right type of care for this disease.  

So this week the Senate passed the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act.  We are not waiting on the House to pass it.  What this does is very important not only to patients, but also to those of us in the sandwich generation – taking care of ourselves and our kids and our parents.  It will provide a lot more resources and support.  It also calls for doubling of the funding for Alzheimer's research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from $640 million to $1.3 billion.  Why is that so important and necessary?  Consider our aging society.  Right now there are about 5 million living with this disease and by 2050 the number is expected to be around 16 million!
If you want to encourage your Representative to vote for this Act, here is a link to do that.  http://www.kintera.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=mmKXLbP8E&b=6390849

So now on to Mom.  Mom has been feeling out of sorts the past couple of days.  Dizzy, nausea, a general feeling of uneasiness, difficulty eating and feeling hungry a lot, and she has been fairly unstable walking and getting up.  So we talked to the doctors and they said it sounds like she is dehydrated.  So off to the supermarket I went (superhero cape tied on tightly!) in the freezing temperatures and snowstorm to get Gatorade.  We also went to the ENT doctor today just to make sure she doesn’t have fluid on the ears – a common problem with people who experience the radiation that mom had to go through.  Good news – no fluid.  So we’ll give it another day or two and hopefully get her electrolytes up and running. 

 By the way, in case you are wondering, electrolytes are basically sodium. They are what maintains voltage in the cells so they can fire and send messages to parts of the body. 

 If we don’t see improvement in about 48-72 hours then it’s off to get her blood checked – again (this poor lady has been poked so many times with needles she looks like she’s been on crack).  Then they can actually count things like sodium levels and we can be more specific in treatment.  But for now it is all about fluids so we’ll force her to drink more fluids and keep eating her veggies.

And thank you to those of you who continue to offer your support of me, as well.  It is such a blessing, it truly is.  Some people may not be able to understand why or how I do all this for both my parents.  My answer is simple:  why wouldn’t I?  Afterall, the best things in life are not things at all.

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