Alzheimer’s – Sensitive Topics

Sometimes I wrestle with whether or not I should write about something related to caring for a loved one with dementia. Some things just feel too private, too personal. In writing about an especially sensitive topic, I wonder if I will dishonor my mother in some way. I’ve wrestled earnestly with today’s topic for these reasons and more. However, as I speak with others who are caring for a loved one suffering from memory loss, many of them are dealing with the same thing. So, for the sake of those who need to know they’re not alone, here’s the topic:

Swearing.

As Mom’s battle with Alzheimer’s dementia intensifies, so does the bad language and harshness of the tongue. Those who help provide her care each day assure me she is still incredibly sweet – they love, love, LOVE her to pieces. They tell me that when her tongue gets sharp, she almost immediately apologizes and layers on the salve of kindness.

Before Alzheimer’s, Momma would never swear at someone. In a moment of frustration, she may think a curse word in response to a frustrating situation, but she would never say it out loud. She would quickly reign in her frustration and replace it with graciousness.

With Alzheimer’s, the filter on the tongue is missing. My sweet mother’s ability to reign in her emotions and frustrations is broken. With arms flailing, out come the curse words when her caregiver tries (sometimes in vain) to help her shower or get dressed. She’ll even blurt out curse words at me, the one who provides daily love and care for her.

It hurts my heart to hear her swear and say ugly, mean-spirited things.

Before Alzheimer’s Momma’s tongue held kind words, not critical and harsh ones. Her tongue reflected her actions and her love for her Savior; she was gracious and benevolent with both. She’d never blurt out what she thinks. She’d just smile and keep her thoughts to herself.

I know it’s the result of this disease. But, I also see very clearly that the curse of the sinful nature we are all born with is uncovered and revealed by this relentless and wicked disease. I know in my heart how much my mother loves Jesus. And I know how immersed she was in the Scriptures and what a prayer warrior she was before this disease stripped her mind of the ability to recall the things she has learned.

I always hoped that she would defy the odds of this disease and never forget the Scriptures she has learned. But now, it seems, she cannot understand what she is reading and tells me that the Bible I keep on her nightstand isn’t hers, even though it is filled with her own handwritten notes, prayers and thoughts.

I always hoped that music and the great hymns of the faith would be a help and stronghold for her in her later years. But she is usually quite ambivalent to it – although her poor hearing might play a role in that.

I always hoped she wouldn’t forget that she is a child of the King. On this last unfulfilled hope – she has forgotten, but God has not. She is His child and He knows it. He remembers her and will never forget – never forsake.

Someday, when all is made new, music will be restored and she will sing a new song in heaven. Best of all, she will meet the One she read about in Scriptures and has trusted by faith – Jesus – the living Word.

Sharing is Hard!

Each day after lunch, Mom and I usually sit quietly together in her room watching all the goings-on outside of her window. There is so much to see: cars and trucks as they drive in and out, people who come and go, the construction happening next door and (best of all) the birds at the feeders just a few feet away.

Today sweet Carol stopped by for a little after lunch visit. Without a word, Carol took me by the hand, urging me to rise from my chair and take a walk with her. I have taken many such walks with Carol, so gave Momma a quick hug and told her I’d be right back. Carol gave my hand another insistent tug and off we strolled hand-in-hand. As I left the room Momma suddenly addressed our friend Carol in an obviously jealous tone of voice blurting, “Hey! That’s MY Momma!”

Here’s a photo of a sweeter moment for Momma and her friend Carol.

Photo credit: Kathleen Zelinski

Still Wheatless in Fitchburg

The Wheatless Experiment continues in earnest in Fitchburg. Almost a month has gone by now, with only a few accidental slips (and one purposeful taste). I have kind of hit my stride, finding it easy enough to stick with my plan and say “no” to temptation.

The best news is that I can still honestly report that the arthritis-type pain in my hips, legs, knees and thumb joints is gone. I do still have a persistent clicking in my left knee (which I’ve had since I was a teen), but no more ache-til-you-wanna-cry pain.

I thank God for this result. Really. I can’t thank Him enough for helping me make this discovery about one major source of inflammation for my body.

And I’m thankful for the various cooks who’ve posted wheat-free recipes on Pinterest, where I’ve been gathering “pins” in search of good substitute recipes for some of our favorite things that we enjoy at Thanksgiving. Pumpkin pie, in particular. I’ve got my first experimental crustless pumpkin pie in the oven right now. Here’s the recipe I gleaned from Amee on her blog called “Inspired Housewife.” Click here for the recipe (including a tutorial video).

Only one change: I substituted 1/4 c pure maple syrup for half of the raw honey. I used evaporated milk for the cup of milk called for in the recipe.

So, here it is, cooling on the counter. I plan to serve it chilled with some sweetened whipped cream tomorrow evening to those attending our small group Bible study.

Now for the hard part…keeping hubby out of it until then.

Verdict? I enjoyed it. It was yummy, but hubby wondered why it didn’t have a crust.

My Experiment with ‘Radical Wheatectomy’

I recently figured out how to use Libby – an app that allows me to borrow audible books from the library. (I know, I’m late to the party…but I made it!) I spend a fair amount of time sitting with Momma when she needs company, but doesn’t necessarily want to talk, so I’ve begun listening to books. It has been a great way for me to keep my brain stimulated, to learn new things, and to find enjoyment when doing solitary things like gardening, sewing, or household cleaning.

Today, I thought I’d share my review of two books I read earlier this month: “Wheat Belly” by William Davis, MD, and “Grain Brain” by David Perlmutter, MD. I picked these two off the virtual library shelf because I’m interested in learning more about how today’s genetically modified wheat purportedly contributes to inflammation in our bodies. I’ve been having a great deal of arthritic-type pain in my hands (and swelling to the point where I can no longer wear my wedding rings). The pain in my legs (especially my knees) makes me feel like a little old lady, limping and gimping along. And don’t get me started about how much my hips hurt. If something doesn’t change, I’ll be using a cane (or a walker) very soon.

Truth be told, the scariest problem I’ve been noticing lately is foggy thinking. I have noticed great difficulty in my ability to concentrate on reading or writing. Staying focused on a task was becoming noticeably harder. This scares me. Given my family history of Alzheimer’s, it scares me a LOT.

I have read that inflammation is at the root of many physical ailments. Research has suggested it is involved in diabetes, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s. I was already aware that over-consumption of sugar was involved in so many inflammatory health conditions. Could there be something to this premise that the consumption of wheat also contributes to inflammation?

I listened to “Wheat Belly” first. I actually listened to it twice because there was so much to absorb in this book. I read “Grain Brain” because Dr. Davis referenced it in his book. After ingesting the information they both provided, I concluded that what they were suggesting was worth an experiment in my own diet. I decided to cut wheat out from my diet for a period of one month and see what happens.

  • I changed my morning breakfast ritual. I stopped eating my slice of whole-grain toast with peanut butter and jelly each morning. Instead, I substituted a smoothie which I made with spinach, frozen berries, and a bit of protein powder.
  • I stopped eating the “protein meal replacement bar” I had been consuming almost every day at lunch. I started making myself a salad with a bit of protein in the form of chicken, tuna or an egg, and a small handful of raw walnuts for a dose of healthy fat.
  • I made a habit of saying “no thank you” when offered the complimentary bread basket at our favorite neighborhood restaurant. If I ordered a sandwich, I’d ask for a lettuce wrap or ask them to omit the bun. At the local pizza buffet, I would eat a slightly larger salad, then choose one piece of chicken and one piece of pizza – removing the skin on the chicken and eating only the delicious toppings on the pizza.
  • I began scrutinizing the ingredients listed on food labels, looking for wheat (in all its forms). Check out this article for a good list of what to look for on labels. I went through my pantry and quarantined anything with wheat.
  • I’m being careful not to eat gluten-free this and that’s just because they are gluten-free. I could literally pig-out on the GF donuts, breads, cakes, pancakes, cereals, muffins, bagels, protein bars, pizzas, desserts, and myriad treats that are available in my grocer’s specially dedicated aisle. To do so would spell over-indulgence and certain disaster in any efforts of mine to lose weight and thus reduce the load on my old knees.

So, you ask, “How’d it go?” Well, I’m glad you asked! I must report that I began noticing subtle changes in how I felt within a few days. My legs were less achy and the puffiness around my knees seemed diminished. I wondered if it was working, or just a fluke…or a figment of my imagination. Now that three weeks have passed, I don’t think those changes are placebo. I think they’re very real and significant.

  • I have more energy and ability to focus on tasks.
  • My fuzzy brain has cleared up significantly. I’ve even begun blogging again.
  • My headaches have disappeared.
  • I wish I had measured my knees at the start, but I can tell you that the puffiness has gone WAY down.
  • My left knee still clicks, but my legs and knees don’t hurt. I can walk and use stairs without pain. This is a very significant and welcome change because, quite honestly, they hurt to the point of tears.
  • The excruciating pain that I experienced when getting in or out of a car is gone. Not just better. Gone.
  • It literally hurt to pick up my coffee cup. I had to use two hands, or risk dropping my mug. I am encouraged to note that I can move my thumbs and grasp a coffee mug without pain again.
  • Interestingly enough, I can zip the jeans that were hard to zip, and less of me seems to be spilling out over the top of those jeans.

While I have had some good results and undeniably dramatic reduction in the pain I believe to be associated with inflammation, I’m not totally convinced that “radical wheatectomy,” as Dr. Davis calls it, is right for everyone. In fact, he purports that all grains are suspect in the inflammatory process and should be eliminated. There are plenty of articles out there (written by physicians) which warn that this diet is not healthy. Here’s a link to just one of many that are worth consideration. This particular author believes that the Wheat Belly/Grain Brain diet is just a backdoor approach to the old Atkins Diet.

So, here’s my conclusion: It is my personal theory that it is the over-consumption of carbs in the form of grains that is primarily suspect. Once I began taking a closer look at food ingredient labels, it was clear to see that wheat is hidden in SO many foods. Add that to all the breads we knowingly eat, we very unintentionally over-consume wheat and stress out our bodies. Another consideration – when I deliberately cut out wheat, I also dramatically reduced my sugar consumption, and a host of unpronounceable chemicals and additives found in the food I eliminated. Definitely not a bad thing.

So, what am I going to do with this information? For now, because my body is feeling better, I will continue my wheat-free diet to give my body a chance to heal. Somewhere down the road, I will likely reintroduce wheat – in moderation, of course – to see how my body will respond.