Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Clean Bill of Health, Physically

The Doctor's Appointment went well. It seems Dad is still quite healthy except for a slightly elevated glucose level (which is common in patients who have a past of Alcoholism). This was the first time we had been to this particular VA office, and we really liked the Nurse Practitioner, Dr. Reed. Her Mother has Alzheimer's so she is very familiar with the disease and answered all of our questions. She classified Dad as being in the moderate stage, although my Mom and I seem to think he's on the cusp between moderate and the beginning of severe. I kept telling the NP that this was a good day so he's usually worse.

I'm pretty sure Dad has lost more weight since the last Doctor's visit. I think total it's been 10-12 pounds in 2 months. Dr. Reed didn't seem too worried about that when I asked her if we should be. We'll just monitor that I guess.

He's still got that rash and it looks really bad, not to mention it is itching like crazy. We finally got referred to a dermatologist. That is some good news. Hope we don't have to wait too long for the appointment.

We also learned that the elevated glucose level could contribute to some erratic behavior. I said, "I know that Alzheimer's targets the memory and physical coordination, but sometimes it seems that he is acting kind of crazy." She replied that it was sometimes normal in Alzheimer's patients, but it could also be due in part from his elevated glucose. We asked if we should be limiting his consumption of certain foods and she replied, "At this point in his life, I wouldn't worry about limiting anything." Which is exactly how I feel. We've got to let him enjoy the parts of life he has left.

I guess I kind of wanted a more concrete diagnoses of where Dad is at right now. I go back and forth between Dementia and Alzheimer's because Alzheimer's is a specific form of Dementia (which he definitely has) but is really difficult to 100% diagnose. However, through a process of elimination and thorough testing, Doctors today can diagnose to what they refer to as probably Alzheimer's disease with almost 90% accuracy. We're pretty sure that's what he has since it runs in the family and many of his symptoms are pretty specific, but he has never been completely diagnosed with it. The only way that Alzheimer's can be fully diagnosed is after death when a brain scan can be examined for certain microscopic changes caused by the disease.

I've read numerous things about what the brain looks like in an Alzheimer's patient, things like.... the brain shrinks (and kind of shrivels) as the disease progresses because of nerve cell death and tissue loss... ventricles in the brain (large fluid-filled spaces) grow larger which causes the brain to look like it has holes in it - like swiss cheese... Plaques, abnormal clusters of protein fragments, build up between nerve cells and are a prime suspect of cell death and tissue loss in the brain.... gives a tour of the brain in an Alzheimer's patient and it makes my stomach uneasy. It's strange to think that my Dad's brain is shrinking and shriveling... kind of like it is slowly dying.

It also says that the average life span of someone with Alzheimer's is 8 years. But, then it breaks it down a little more...
Mid-moderate Alzheimer's can last from 2-10 years...
Severe Alzheimer's can last from 1-5 years....

There is so much to learn about this disease but still never enough answers.

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