John Leahy- Podcaster, Musician, Broadcaster, Audiobook Narrator, Storyteller
May 4, 2022

An expansion on Alzheimer's Disease

An expansion on Alzheimer's Disease

You might recall a few weeks ago in my podcast episode I touched on a few challenges I am facing right now. One of those is the effects of being a caregiver to my father who is dealing with advanced stage Alzheimer's Disease. I have seen firsthand the effects of this cruel, debilitating disease. I thought I'd just reflect on how this experience has affected me.  

My Dad was originally diagnosed with this disease back in 2017. Of course, at that time I and family had no idea what we were getting into. Fast forward five years and we have learned more about the effects of this disease than we ever thought we would have to learn. They call it the "Long Goodbye". The brain literally dies one day at a time. It attacks a person's memory, their cognitive abilities, their ability to relate to others, and then ultimately their ability to self-care for themselves. The person affected with this disease can often display bizarre and sometimes severe behavioral episodes. 

Lost in this is the tremendous toll it takes on the caregivers- their emotional well-being, financial impacts, and general overall health. We have assistance provided to us now by hospice services to spell our family members for badly needed breaks, especially to my Mom, who is his primary caretaker. 

There have been certain facets of this disease that have stuck out- one is a term called sundowning, which is a phenomenon closely associated with the disease. During sunset hours, the person affected by Alzheimer's can experience agitation and mood disruptions. We were able to address this with my Dad through medication. The other is his disrupted sleep cycle. Overnights are quite the challenging time. 

Looking ahead, there will still be challenging times ahead as the disease progresses. I was reading that as he gets deeper into Stage 7, he will lose his ability to smile. Another cruel ugly dimension of this awful disease. 

WIth God's help I and my family will get through this and survive it. In the meantime, patience is a virtue. And so is taking care of yourself as much as possible. We have a family wedding coming up- my nephew's- and hospice will be taking my Dad for the weekend. 

Thanks for taking time to listen to me get this out there. And if any of you go through this, reach out. I've been there now, and I can help.