I hope my friends and family will be praying for Mom. As time wears on, she is failing. Pray also for Lady Bug and her family in the loss of her Mother, Ushi (91). Lady Bug and I visited Mom yesterday on the way home from a visit with Snickers and Popcorn. We found Mom sitting in "her" spot out in the family room of the East Neighborhood of OAR fast asleep around 1:15PM. I tapped her on the knee and said, Hello gorgeous." She smiled and laughed and said, "Hello son." We had a nice visit for a few minutes before we had to go and pick up a grandson from school. I found out later in the afternoon that when Snickers called her, she didn't remember us being there. Here is a funny story I received by email today... When asked by a young patrol officer, "Do You know you were speeding?" this 83-year-old woman gave the young officer an ear-to-ear smile and stated: "Yes , but I had to get there before I forgot where I was going." The officer put his ticket book away and bid her good day. Makes perfectly good sense to me.
Alzheimer’s Around the World
By Jeffery Anderson
September is World Alzheimer’s Month, which reminds us that it’s not only Americans who are dealing with the ravages of Alzheimer’s and other age-related dementias. Dementia knows no borders. People around the globe suffer from dementia, as have people throughout time.
History of Dementia
Since ancient times, people have experienced age-related dementia memory impairment. According to a June 1998 article in the Journal of Neurological Science by F. Boller and MM. Forbes, “The history of dementia is probably as old as mankind itself.” A January 2006 article from the same journal, titled Dementia in the Greco-Roman World and written by Axel Karenberg and Hans Forstl, credits the Ancient Greeks as first recognizing and describing dementia.Illustration of Ancient Conception of the Mind
About 2,400 years ago Plato described an illness that “gives rise to all manners of forgetfulness as well as stupidity.”
Dementia in the Greco-Roman World also quotes the Roman poet, Juvenal, who almost 2,000 years ago characterized a phenomenon that’s easily recognized as dementia:
“Diseases of all kind dance around the old man in a troop. But worse than any loss in the body is the failing mind which forgets the names of slaves, and cannot recognize the face of the old friend who dined with him last night, nor those of the children whom he has begotten and brought up.”
Evidence of dementia in Ancient Egypt exists as well. A paper by Dr. Deborah Sweeney of Tel Aviv University, quotes a 25th century BCE Egyptian, Ptahhotep, describing in hieroglyphs an aging person who “every night becomes more and more childish.” This, in fact, may be the earliest extant piece of writing describing dementia.
During the Dark Ages, advancement in understanding of dementia halted abruptly. There’s no doubt that dementia continued to afflict people in the times between Antiquity and the Enlightenment, but it was hardly written about. According to a 1998 article in the Neurobiology of Aging by Berchtold and Cotman, the next notable leap in understanding of dementia after ancient times was in the early 1600s by English philosopher Francis Bacon, who authored a work called Methods of Preventing the Appearance of Senility. Bacon may have been the first to recognize dementia as a brain disease, noting, “In the posterior part of the brain occurs oblivion, concerning the saying that old age is ‘the home of forgetfulness.’”
Shakespeare’s plays Hamlet and King Lear also used dementia as dramatic device.
It’s also widely recognized by historians, including Berchtold and Cotman, that many of the victims of the 17th century witch trials in Europe and the United States who were burned at the stake may have been simply suffering from dementia.
Public understanding of dementia didn’t enter the modern age until the German psychiatrist, Alois Alzheimers, described the first case of what we now know as Alzheimer’s Disease in 1910, classifying it as a subtype of “senile dementia.”
A Global Problem
People are living longer than ever. According to the World Health Organization the global average lifespan was just 31 years in 1900. Today the global average is 70 years. This trend means that age-related dementia has become a major worldwide problem. In a groundbreaking report, the World Alzheimer’s Association estimated that as of 2010 there were 35.6 million people worldwide with dementia and that the global costs of dementia are over $300 billion dollars. According to the report, dementia is most prevalent in the Caribbean, with 8.12% of those over 60 having dementia. The region of the world with the lowest rate of dementia is Western Sub-Saharan Africa (Nigeria and nearby countries), with only 2.07% of those over 60 reported as having the disease. But the worldwide differences in estimated dementia prevalence may actually have to do with the way we diagnose (or fail to diagnose) the illness.
A study by the National Institute of Health seemingly low rates of dementia in Africa may be due to “the hiding of cases by relatives because of stigma, reluctance to seek medical assistance, poor access to medical care, and defective-case finding techniques.” These same barriers to diagnosis could apply equally to any other area of the developing world.
Memory Care Around the World
Whatever the actual rates of dementia across different parts of the globe, it’s clear that all nations—especially those with a large aging population—face a difficult burden of caring for people with dementia.
A recent New York Times article describes how American-style memory care communities are beginning to sprout up in China. The article quotes an official in Shanghai who says, “We’re planning to build at least one nursing home that can care for dementia patients in every district. Every year, we’ll need at least 5,000 additional beds.” But unlike America, where memory care homes have names like “Whispering Creek Manor” or “Sunny Brooke Estate,” the new memory care home described in the New York Times article is known simply as (in classic communist fashion), “Shanghai No. 3 Elderly Home.” While Shanghai No. 3 Elderly Home may not have the most creative name, its care is cutting-edge:
“He says the new facility has a multimedia room that can display images of Shanghai streets, and even images that appear to show the neighborhoods of the patients. This is supposed to make them feel at home. Many patients also wear GPS armbands that help the staff monitor their locations.”
In Europe, entire villages are now being built for people with dementia. Residents are led to believe they’re in a regular European village, but in fact they are being carefully supervised and cared for. The first of these villages nicknamed Dementiaville was built in the Netherlands 20 years ago. As of writing, a second “Dementiaville” is being constructed in Switzerland at a price of more than $30 million.
Can We End Dementia?
Dementia is so ubiquitous that we could include a story from each of the world’s countries; but it’s already clear that dementia affects people everywhere, and has been basic, element of humanity since its dawn. Our blog recently reported that the Department of Health and Human Services has set a goal to cure Alzheimer’s by 2025, with extra funds devoted to research and caregiver support. The goal may strike many as overoptimistic, but a goal-setting approach is probably better than complacently accepting dementia as a part of life.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Here it is September already. Mom is having more trouble with confusion and anxiety in the mornings lately and seems to be going downhill a little more rapidly. Earlier this week on my morning call, she kept asking what she is supposed to be doing now. Recent evaluations have upgraded her to a higher level of care giving. She is eating well and has actually put on about 20 pounds. Some of her clothes are too small for her now. Her roommate has moved to another facility and she has the room all to herself, at least for now. OAR is going to repaint her room and possibly install a new carpet. We could not reach her on her phone for a couple of days last week as the battery had died but they got it recharged for her and it is working OK now. At one point, she held out the phone to one of the attendants and asked, “What is this?” This morning she did not answer my morning call in but a little latter she actually called ME and said that she was sorry she missed my call. I was impressed. Yesterday I picked her up for church and she had another real good day but she was very tired when I got her back “home” again. She is not walking for exercise like she used to do. Last week was a rough week for her but she seemed to be doing better today and yesterday. It was a joy to see her singing the old hymns of faith with uplifted face and her eyes closed. It was special.