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Alzheimer’s, Drug Companies, Death, Life, and Love

The NY Times this AM has a big article on drug companies doing Alzheimer’s research.

I realize that this is not an entirely altruistic effort on the part of the drug companies, but as one who is a sole care manager dealing with this disease with my mother, I wish them well with all my heart.

In the early stages of the recognition of the disease, as you grapple moment to moment with how to manage your loved one’s life, it is a living hell for the family. The patient’s forgetfulness, but worse, acting out on their hallucinations and delusions, means that you never know what your loved one will do next. If they had a — shall we say– “difficult personality” to begin with, it certainly doesn’t get any better. You do everything possible to mitigate and avoid the mood swings, paranoia, delusions, delusional behavior, and tempermental explosions. The stress is incredible.

I am just so thankful for my cousins who were very close with my mom throughout their lives. They are willing to step in and help out for this summer while we are at our home in Canada awaiting the birth or our two grandchildren due in July and September. It would be impossible for us to have Mom there with us for the summer for a variety of reasons, including the lack of specialized medical care in our area.

In May, we remodeled Mom’s house in the hope that she would be able to remain at home with some help, including me moving my office to her home in October and working there during my 12-14 hour work day while keeping one eye on her. But as her condition has continued to rapidly deteriorate, it’s beginning to look like that may not be an option.

I have begun looking at assisted living facilities with Alzheimer’s care units. Not the most cheerful places around. I have walked into and out of these places feeling the urge to weep, but restraining myself out of respect for those folks sitting in their wheelchairs by the front door, their eyes blankly following my progress into and out of the building.

I wonder what they are thinking, how they are feeling. Their faces convey no expression.

I think of my Dad. As much as I miss him, I am partly thankful that he is gone. For him to have had to witness his beloved wife falling apart like this would have been a torture far worse than the death he suffered from Pancreatic Cancer. My mother was his rock throughout that terrible year.

As I think about things like bull and bear markets, and all the other mundane matters we deal with on these boards every day, I realize something. It doesn’t really matter much, because the end result of all this is the same for everyone. And for many, if not most, regardless of who they are or their station in life, the road out of here will be neither easy nor pleasant.

There are many who think that whatever is on the other side makes it all worth it. That would be nice. I think I’ll focus on that idea. As a bear by nature, I somehow doubt that there will be 70 virgins waiting for me when I get there. I think that the best we can hope for is that the road to our passing will be as peaceful and pain free as possible. I envy those whose faith in a Supreme Being makes their journey one of hope, rather than helplessness. Since we have no choice in the matter, then I guess acceptance is the only sane choice.

So in that light, I wish Wyeth and all the other drug companies working toward that goal of a more peaceful and pain free road to our death, all the best, for whatever reason they are doing it. Maybe they aren’t quite the totally evil monsters I have always believed them to be. There is some good being done, and I promise to try to recognize that a little more in all of the things I look at, evaluate, and write about.

Life is just too short to be mad at the world all the time. As the lucky optimists among us would do, I’m going to spend more time looking for and recognizing the good. I thank Whomever that my beautiful wife, who is one of those who naturally sees only the sunny side, will be there to coach and encourage me along the way.

Don’t ask me how a grouch like me got so lucky to be blessed with a partner like her.

I guess there really are miracles. smile.gif
Peace and love to all. I’ll be dropping in on our message boards from time to time as we make our way north this week to our summer sanctuary in la belle province. The Professional Edition will not be published Monday June 11 through Friday June 15. Regular publication will resume Monday June 18. We also look forward to the resumption of our Wall Street Examiner podcasts that week.

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  1. Andy

    I’ve often thought that the only thing we truly do alone is die. That’s why friends and family instinctively gather around the deathbed in an attempt to assuage the lonely act. Alzheimers stretches that loneliness out in a dreadful way. Although our family has been spared (so far), I had an experience as a child that allows me to relate, somewhat, to your situation. My father had a stroke when I was just a little kid and he lost his memory/mind; in fact acted quite similarly to those with Alzheimers. There came a time when he didn’t recognize me. This may have been the most significant moment in my life (though I’ve never paid a psychiatrist to find out). I guess I had never given up hoping for his recovery and all that hope, not to mention my “self,” got wacked in that cruel moment of total innocence on his part.

  2. Billy Shears

    My dad lived about 5 more years in a nursing home after being diagnosed with Alzheimers. Before my mom took him to the ‘retirement’ home, which was a sad event in itself, he would raid the kitchen during the night. He had diabetes, but couldn’t remember he wasn’t supposed to eat the ice cream, etc. Finally had to put a lock on the fridge. However, he was never mean or beligerent. Just confused and forgetful and couldn’t converse toward the end. He recognized me, but didn’t know if I was his son or just a friend.

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