For two weeks, that Manuel was living in our ward at the VA hospital, I got the opportunity to see (up close and personal), what this dreadful disease of dementia is like...and I can report ...it is not good...not good at all. Dementia and Alzheimer's are similar, and I can't really tell the difference, so in the interest of clarity, I'll give the dictionary definition of both.
* Alzheimer's disease: (definition) a progressive form of pre-senile dementia
that is similar to senile dementia, except that it usually starts in the 40's or
50's, first symptoms are impaired memory, which is followed by impaired
thought and speech and finally complete helplessness.
* Dementia: (definition) deterioration of intellectual faculties, such as
memory, concentration, and judgment...sometimes personality changes.
Dementia is caused by organic damage to the brain (as in Alzheimer's),
head trauma, metabolic disorders, or the presence of a tumor.
As you can see, the pair are closely related. I consider the time I spent around Manuel a blessing, because I saw for myself what this terrible disease can do! I was told by the nurse, that Manuel had dementia, and she told me he was 48 years old, with a mind of a two or three year old, and she didn't elaborate beyond that.
Manuel spent most of his day in a lounge chair, which was place near the nurse's station, so they could keep a closer watch on him. He had to be hand-fed; bathed; dressed, and had trouble communicating, etc. At times during the day, he would have temper-tantrums, and would scream and cry out loud, just like a two or three year old would do. This was hard to believe, unless you witnessed something like this yourself.
I don't think Manuel knew where he was, and he had that "bland look," about him. He would look around as if he was in a daze, and it was so sad to see another human being, who had no idea where he was! Some people have really been dealt terrible hand in life...and Manuel was one of them. After about two weeks in the ward, he was moved to another facility, which would take better care of him, and he would spend the rest of his life in an institution! A sad story indeed!
* * *
In the early 1960's, my grandmother probably died of Alzheimer's disease, but doctor's probably didn't know what it was back then. She would go to the store, and couldn't find her way back, or she would be found out by the railroad tracks and would be brought back home by police. She was placed in a mental institution where she died!
In the year 2006, I'm 61 years young...and old age bothers and worries me! Aut, as shown in the Manuel story...a person doesn't have to be old, to worry about these two diseases! I worry about the forgetfulness I have had recently. For example:
* One day, I drove into a gas station, bought some gas for the car, and I got in the car and drove away, forgetting to put the gas in the car! About a block down the street, I realized what I had done, and I turned around and came back to put the gas in the car!
* In another incident, I was boiling eggs on the stove, and went on with my day around the house. All of a sudden, I heard a "POP" coming from the kitchen! It sounded like a fire-cracker! I raced into the kitchen, to find egg shells all over the floor, where the eggs had exploded! All the water in the pan had evaporated, and the other eggs in the pan were about to explode as well. (I didn't know eggs exploded)
* When I get home from work, I would drive by the mail boxes at the apartments where I live to check the mail. I would usually leave the car running, as I jumped out of the car and quickly check the mail. On this day, I jumped out of the car, checked the mail, and instead of getting back in the car to drive home...I walked home reading the mail...and forgetting about the car...and left it running! About two hours later, I needed to go someplace, and when I went out to get in the car...it wasn't where I usually park it! I thought somebody had stolen it! PANIC! I looked toward the mailboxes...and there it was...where I left it...and it had run out of gas! "Am I losing my mind?" I thought to myself!
* * *
Leaving politics aside, and at the age of 70, when most people are settled into retirement, President Reagan, was elected and I think was one of our greatest Presidents. For it was him, who led the way in eliminating the dangerous Cold War from the face of the Earth, which could have killed all of us! The "Great Communitor," died from Alzheimer's, after a long bout with the disease.
Remembering Manuel...I'll never forget him! I do this by having a copy of this story (framed) and on the wall in my home office. There is not a day, that I don't glance at the story...and, it is a reminder to myself, about how lucky I am that I don't have dementia or Alzheimer's disease...and it is a reminder to me as to how bad things COULD be!