Monday, July 12, 2010

Increasing the odds or fooling myself

Have any of you ever searched through your loved ones history wondering what might have led to them developing Alzheimer's disease?   I know I have.

Perhaps I do this hoping I can nail down a reason so that I might be able to say, "See that is what did it.  I won't get this horrible disease."

I think I also do this hoping I can find a reason or a pattern to this disease thereby finding hope for a cure.  Big dreams without much reality to back that up.

Last week a study came out saying people who suffer from depression have a higher risk for the disease.  Ah ha! Lily had to be depressed with losing her husband at such a young age, raising three kids by herself, and then living alone for so many years.  Didn't she?  I really only remember one episode of finding her laying on the couch weeping and depressed.  Thinking back I would say that was in her late 40's.  But like I said she lived alone and like so many young people I was more in tune to what was happening in my life at the time than paying attention to what was going on with my mother.  She could have been depressed quite a bit more for all I knew.

What if the head trauma Lily suffered when she went through the car's windshield in her early 20's started a cycle of inflammation which led to this diagnosis.

Perhaps it was the years prior to being diagnosed with hypothyroidism when she may have needed to be on medicine.  Or maybe the years following the diagnosis when she refused to take the diagnosis seriously and did not take her medicine on a regular basis.

I remember reading once that detailed people have less risk and Mom was never big on detail.  She did not balance her checkbook.  She didn't care when she wallpapered her entire bedroom and when finished noticed one strip was upside down.  "Nobody is going to be in there but me anyway!"  She was a lousy baker because she was not precise, and for that reason was a good cook.  She didn't care if her kids had holes in their socks which made me all the more determined my kids never did.

Maybe it was her diet.  I know when she no longer had to cook for her children the less care she took with her own nutrition.  A bowl of cereal or ice cream for dinner.  Why not?  So what if she if became a little pudgy in her middle years.  "Nobody looks at me anyway."

Exercise.  Lily thought that was a bunch of crap.  Why would she do something which made her body hurt the next day.

Lily's Irish education consisted of finishing what we would call middle school.  So she wasn't overly educated or as she would say overly intelligent.  "Just average."  Although I would say she was gifted in the area of communication.  She definitely kissed the Blarney Stone and had the gift of gab which is why I feel that has been the last to go.

So what about your family member?  What do you see in their background that sounds like Lily?  Any triggers that you can identify?  Or is is all in the genes.

On one hand it is hard to think that something one might do could lead to Alzheimer's but on the other hand it would also be a relief to say if I don't do this I won't get that.   Kind of like with lung cancer.  If I don't smoke I won't have to worry about that and we all know that is not true, but we do it anyway.  However, there is truth in the fact that smoking does increase your odds.  So could some of these behaviors increase the odds of Alzheimer's?  Or am I just hoping to escape the loaded gun.

I do know if I do get this Mom has provided an awesome example of courage, stubbornness, optimism, and humor in fighting to keep Lily in the race.  No chance I will remember though.  My fight will be own.


  1. Kerry, I have searched and searched for answers too. Was it depression from losing my brothers, was it from smoking all of those years, drinking alcohol and coffee? I even read on some obscure post one time that there was a higher chance of getting it if you are of Belgium descent. Mom was 1/2 Belgium. I've never seen anything else that suggests that link. I do know that My Grandmother (pure Belgium) and 5 of her 6 siblings all had dementia. My mom was the third of seven siblings in her family to die from this horrid disease. My aunt (who never smoked) is showing signs of it in her 70's and another uncle has Parkinson's which is related. I don't have any answer but I do know that sometimes I lie awake at night terrified that this might be my future. I am even more terrified for my children who have it on both sides of the family. But I remain hopeful that a cure or treatment is in the near future. My sisters and I are looking at studies to take part in to help find a cure. And truthfully, I am a little thankful everyday that I take more after my dad's side of the family than my mom's!

  2. Thanks for sharing your story. It helps to know that I am not the only one thinking along these lines. I too have always felt like I take after my Dad's side and only hope that goes for the brain too!