Monday, January 15, 2018

The Best We Can

I went to sleep around midnight and woke up at 4:00 a.m. I tossed, turned, read, tossed, turned, and read some more. Finally more than two hours later, I went back to sleep. The phone woke me up around 8:00. I talked to my mom for a few minutes and went back to sleep for another hour.

From there on, my day started in a hole. I still didn’t feel rested and the snow overnight made it an easy decision to cut line-dancing class. The bad thing is that after the holiday weight gain and total lack of exercise, I really needed it.

I have a love/hate relationship with sleep. I usually sleep well about every other night. Maybe “well” is an exaggeration and “better” would be more accurate. As I lay awake, I can’t help but think about all the studies connecting poor sleep to increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Recently, I read about an Alzheimer’s sleep study that showed interrupted sleep can have immediate consequences. Even one night of sleep disturbance can increase the levels of amyloid in the brain. Tau levels change after several nights of disturbance. This is bad news for my fellow insomniacs and me.

Even with these protein changes, the study does not conclude that sleeping well will decrease your chances of developing Alzheimer’s, but a good night’s sleep improves overall health.

Back to the early morning phone call… My mom called to tell me that my sister-in-law’s father had passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. Her dad was in the same nursing home with my brother so I saw him from time-to-time before my brother passed away. The thing I always remember about him was the big smile.

Maybe the smiles made it a little easier for the family, but it didn’t eliminate the heartbreak of losing shared memories, companionship, or sharing ideas and experiences. The disease takes a toll on an entire family.

I once started reading a best-selling Alzheimer’s book by a woman who scoffed at people who were saddened or depressed when a loved one was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Her attitude that it wasn’t a big deal set my teeth on edge.

Another super-wealthy caregiver advised not putting a loved one in a nursing home. Keeping a loved one at home is much easier when you can hire a team to provide 24/7 care.

I could see where in-home care would be an attractive option, but not practical for most of us. Most of us can’t manage without the support of family, friends, and professionals. Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America and can last for a decade or more.

When the journey ends, we can take comfort in knowing we did the best we could with the resources available to us. I believe the most valuable gifts we have to offer are time and unconditional love.

Love doesn’t end at the nursing home door or, for that matter, death’s door.

Copyright © January 2018 by L.S. Fisher

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