“I Think I Love You”: Thoughts on David Cassidy’s Dementia Diagnosis

David Cassidy was the television version of the cool older brother I never had. Hearing that he has dementia feels like some protective cone over my childhood has been wrenched away.

As an only child growing up in the late ’60s and early ’70s, I often felt out of place in working class New Jersey. Most of the families on my street had four or five kids, and at school some kids used to call me a “lonely only” or make snide remarks about my being “spoiled.” I loudly told them to shut up, but part of me felt bad about being different. I sometimes fantasized about having lots of siblings, but mainly my daydreams centered on one thing: Having an older brother who would protect me.

I imagined this perfect big brother beating the shit out of Donald Schmidt when he punched my arm in the coatroom in fourth grade. (Instead, I challenged Donald to a fight outside and got punched in the face.) I imagined this big brother pushing the junior high kids off the bridge when they threw lit cigarettes into my bookbag. (The cigarettes made brown burn holes.) When a gang of nasty seventh-graders ganged up on my friend Judy Chen and called her a “Chink,” I envisioned my big brother grabbing them by their hoodies and hauling them off to the principal’s office like some kind of civil-rights-era Sir Lancelot.

A few years later, I found myself wishing for a cool older brother who would bring his guy friends over to the house so I could get to know them.

Back in elementary school, my go-to role model for an older brother was Keith Patridge, as played by David Cassidy on The Partridge Family. He was relaxed, funny, confident—the de facto father figure in a household run by his widowed mother. Continue Reading

David Cassidy Has Dementia

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Back in the 1970s, David Cassidy became a teen idol as the lead singer of the Partridge Family, a made-for-TV pop group that spawned a number of Top 10 hits including “I Think I Love You” (1970), which went to No. 1. The show was hugely popular for several years, and Patridge Family albums sold millions of copies, especially among pre-teens like me and my friends.

Cassidy continued to act and sing throughout his adult life, but he never achieved the same level of success as he had when he was playing Keith Partridge.

And now he has revealed that he has dementia. He struggled with alcohol abuse for years, but went into rehab. Then he forgot the lyrics at a show and didn’t want fans to think he had relapsed. So he decided to tell them the truth.

His mom, Evelyn Ward, had Alzheimer’s.

I’m very sad. More than I can say.

Here he is singing, “I Think I Love You.” Girls used to scream so much when he performed that no one could hear the music.

Alzheimer’s Costs Will Bankrupt American Safety Net, Says Association

So today the Alzheimer’s Association released its 2016 report on the disease, and the news doesn’t look good. As reported by CNN and Forbes, we can expect that by 2015, the number of Americans 65 and up with Alzheimer’s will reach 7.1 million; that is an increase of nearly 40 percent from 5.2 million who had it in 2016. Jump forward to 2050, and the view is even bleaker: Probably 13.8 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s, nearly triple the rate of today.

Why the soaring rise? Americans are living into their 80s and beyond, and the older you get, the greater your risk of contracting Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

There is no cure for the disease. No treatment. No early intervention. Gulp.

What we have on our hands is a crisis, Continue Reading

Don’t Give Up on the Old Folks, Folks

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Old people can suprise you. My father sure did. At age 86, newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and unable to care for himself, he agreed to go to Peru to live with me and my husband. He boarded a plane in Orlando and said goodbye to his house, his dog, his country — every trace of the person he had been. From the moment his plane touched down in Jorge Chavez Airport, his life was never the same. Alzheimer’s + a foreign country + a completely unknown language (Spanish). His new reality was, to say the least, disorienting.

Some elderly people might have wanted to kick the bucket right then and there. And at first, my father did. “Why are you feeding me?” he asked. “Go away. I’m dead.” He went on a hunger strike. He barely drank. For days this went on, then we hooked him up to an IV and pumped some fluids into him. An intelligent doctor prescribed an appetite enhancer, an antidepressant. One day my father showed up at the dinner table: “What’s to eat? I’m starving.”

My father had nursing aides to care for him at our house. They were sweet-tempered, patient souls who didn’t speak a word of English. When he took off all his clothes and threw them in the corner, they calmly picked them up and held them out. “Mister John, put them on, please,” they said in Spanish. Take your pastillas [pills]. Drink your jugo [juice]. Day after day after day. Thank god for the language barrier. They had no idea he called one of them “the fat one” and thought that the small, androgynous aide with glasses was a man.

Fast forward six months: My father is sitting side by side with his nurse, on the couch, watching a telenovela. A drop of mucus hangs from his nose. She glances over, reaches into her sweater sleeve, and wipes the drop off with a tissue that she keeps there for for that purpose. Then she checks her wristwatch.

“Meester John, sus pastillas.”

“Okay.”

“Quieres algo a tomar?”

“Si,” he says.

“Jugo de manzana?”

“Si. Jugo.”

We all thought his story was over. But as he continued to show us, right up to the end, a new chapter was writing itself. The true wine of astonishment, indeed.

Spend Money on Alzheimer’s, President-elect Trump

I haven’t posted here since October. I got kind of busy working a regular job and teaching an extra course and writing textbook material on the side. Oh, and my candidate won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes, but not the electoral college, so she and her brilliant plan to end Alzheimer’s went down the drain. That defeat really got me.

What was her brilliant plan? You probably don’t know about it because it was never brought up in the debates. The media didn’t cover it. Everyone was too busy writing about Hillary’s e-mails from the early 2000s, instead of focusing on the candidate’s actual platform. Said platform = $2 billion a year for Alzheimer’s and related disorders, additional Medicare investment for planning and treatment for patients, commitment to finding a cure by 2025.

Are you gutted by her loss, now that you know about what she was actually prepared to do to combat the disease? Join the club.

The, uh, man who is going to be the president of the United States could do us a solid and get behind Alzheimer’s research in a yuuge way. As we all know, his father, Fred, had Alzheimer’s, and the Donald J. Trump Foundation gave $9,000 to Alzheimer’s foundations in 2010, which was something. I mean, it was nothing, but, you know, it shows that the wheels are turning in there. Which makes me think that somebody could just give the president-elect a push and instruct him on how to make a real difference. I certainly can. Here goes:

#1) Steal Hillary’s plan. It’s right there on her website. No one will notice because nobody paid it any attention during the election. This is one time that plagiarizing won’t get you in trouble, Donald & family.

#2) Bully Congress and the Senate into funding it. Don’t change your mind. Make this your issue. Put your brand all over it. “Fred’s Plan.” That has a nice ring.

#3) Let the plan do its work and in just a few years maybe, just maybe, we’ll see a cure. And you will have done something to truly make America great.

Where the U.S. Presidential Candidates Stand on Alzheimer’s Research

Last night’s presidential debate was heavy on vitriol, insults and threats but managed to address a few of the issues that this nation faces. Unfortunately, confronting the Alzheimer’s epidemic wasn’t one of them.

Still, we do have information on the two candidates’positions on funding for Alzheimer’s research. Donal tRump says that he strongly supports funding it–“It’s a total top priority for me“–but does not offer specifics. The Republican platform does advocate for research for several diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

Hillary Clinton has said that, if elected president, she would dedicate $2 billion per year over a decade to promote a cure for Alzheimer’s, Bloomberg reports. On December 22, 2015, in Iowa, Clinton announced a plan to cure the disease by 2025:

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death right now in our country. For every other of the Top 10 causes of death, we have treatments, we have means of prevention—we even have some cures. But for Alzheimer’s, we have no treatment, no prevention and no cure. So for me, the bottom line is if we’re the kind of nation that cares for its citizens and supports families, respects our elders and takes care of our neighbors, then we’ve got work to do. And we need to do better when it comes to diseases like Alzheimer’s

The plan is meant to steam an “epidemic that could single-handedly crush Medicare, Medicaid,” says a neurologist who was featured at the Iowas event, adding that Alzheimer’s is “an unmet medical need of the greatest type.”

Clinton’s website details her plan, including:

  •  commit to preventing, effectively treating and making a cure possible for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025;
  •  invest $2 billion a year in research for Alzheimer’s and related disorders, which is the level leading researchers have determined is necessary to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s and make a cure possible by 2025, and which is higher than the $936 million appropriated for FY 2016 and $1.4 billion proposed for FY 2017;
  •  make sure that funding is reliable and consistent so researchers can work steadily toward effective treatment;
  •  appoint the most qualified research and health experts possible to oversee this ambitious initiative;
  •  make it easier for families and individuals with Alzheimer’s to get the care they need by having Medicare cover comprehensive Alzheimer’s care-planning sessions and the cost of properly documenting every diagnosis and care plan; and
  •  help protect loved ones who wander by reauthorizing the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program to assist in finding individuals who are reported missing.

Read more about Clinton’s plan here.

I’m a details person. I’m with her.

Vote for Alzheimer’s Question to Be Included in Presidential Debate!

With just a few hours to go before the second U.S. presidential debate, you can add your vote for Alzheimer’s to be added to the debate questions.

“What’s your plan to tackle the large public health crisis, Alzheimer’s disease?”

Go to Open Debate and vote now!

link: https://presidentialopenquestions.com/questions/6990/vote/

Alzheimer’s Brought to New World by Conquistadors, Study Finds

As if the native peoples of Latin America didn’t suffer enough at the hands of the Spanish: a study from UC Santa Barbara concludes that conquistadors likely brought Alzheimer’s disease to what is now Colombia in the early 1600s.

As reported in New Scientist on November 19, 2015, researchers have long puzzled over the extraordinarily high incidence of early-onset Alzheimer’s in Yarumal, a town in the Colombian state of Antioquia. About 5,000 people in the immediate region carry a gene mutation for the disease, half of them receiving a diagnosis as early as age 45. Reporter Rowan Hooper writes that:

Locals call the disease La Bobera, “the foolishness”, and the village bears uncanny parallels with the fictional Macondo in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, where people suffer memory disorders and hallucinations. But while Yarumal’s “curse” is well known, no one knew how the mutation first appeared.

However, that mystery was unlocked in 2015 by researchers from UCSB and the University of Antioquia. Scientists collected blood samples from 102 people in Antioquia and sequenced their genomes. The results showed that roughly three-quarters of the people had a specific mutation for early-onset Alzheimer’s — E280A — which came from a common ancestor about 375 years ago, right when the Spanish invaded. According to New Scientist:

“Putting the genetic data and the historical records together, the assumption that the mutation was introduced by one Spanish conquistador is very likely,” says Rita Guerreiro, a geneticist at University College London. “I think it is fair to conclude from this study that the history of Yarumal and the history of E280A are one and the same.”

The article goes on to describe the agonizing decision that the researchers made not to tell their test subjects the results of the analysis. It makes for provocative reading.

If the scientists’ supposition is true, then it is indeed a tragedy: The actions of a single conquistador doomed generations to suffer an especially severe version of an already painful disease. As described in the New York Times, the victims in Yarumal are prone to violence and lose the power to live indepently early in their lives. .

When I brought my father to Peru to care for him there, I knew little about Alzheimer’s and dementia in South America. During his year and a half in Lima, I met a number of gerontologists, neurologists and professional caregivers, and I began to get a sense of how prevalent the disease is in the metropolitan area.

This news from New Scientist gives a historical focus to Alzheimer’s in the New World.

I wonder: Would we have had Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in Latin America today if the native people had defeated the conquistadors?

 

In Which I Bitch about My Dad’s Hospital Stay: Real Life Adventure #5

Spoiler alert: If you want to preserve the illusion that hospital care for the elderly is efficient, cost-effective and caring, read no future.

"Diagnosis of a UTI typically begins with urine sample." Or so says a medical website that obviously wasn't consulted by my father's geriatric doctor or his hospital.
“Diagnosis of a UTI typically begins with urine sample.” Or so says a medical website that obviously wasn’t consulted by my father’s geriatric doctor or his hospital.

 

My father spent more than a week in the hospital after his collapse in January 2011. He received physical therapy to help him walk again. He received antibiotics. The nurses were caring and on the ball. But what the heck was wrong with him?

I never got any real answers.

By the time I arrived in Gainesville, my father had been on antibiotics for two days. I wanted to know what the infection was. After several days of pestering, one of the nurses confessed: They hadn’t taken a urine sample for testing before they started the antibiotics, so there was no way of knowing what kind of infection he had. They presumed he had a urinary tract infection. Since antibiotics are the necessary treatment, they had started him on them right away.

I was stunned. “Presumed”? Continue Reading

Lesson #1: Hoarding as a Sign of Dementia

hoarding-ketchup-packets

It started around the time my mother died, in 2004 or 2005. My elderly father began eating out more–Boston Market, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Chinese food–and he’d bring home the condiments packets and store them in a drawer in the kitchen.

Ketchup packets. Mustard packets. Soy sauce. Duck sauce.

Soon they filled several drawers. I’d find them crammed in the fridge, in the cutlery drawer.

It became a joke with me and my husband when we’d come over to see my father — the neverending packets. We’d go to get a drink from the fridge, and they’d spill out of the top cubby where you’re supposed to keep eggs.

“Hey, Dad,” I joked, “Don’t you think you have enough ketchup packets?”

“Oh, Barb, there’s no sense throwing out good food,” he’d say, peevishly.

This went on for years. I just thought it was a product of his being a child of the Great Depression.

It must have in 2008 or so when I noticed that he wasn’t just hoarding ketchups. Continue Reading

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