Monday, October 10, 2016

ALZHEIMER'S--R-E-C-L-I-N-E-R Spells Relief

Easier days in early 2014

I’ve been involved with interior design and art for years, either creating something for Joe and myself or helping others enrich their own surroundings, so it’s no surprise to me that tastes change and something that was “hot” yesterday can be completely passé tomorrow.  I often advise people to avoid what I call “Pop Culture Design”.  It might have paid off for the likes of Andy Warhol but a lot of other folks got stuck with avocado green shag carpet, or lava lamps, or a black lacquer bedroom set that looked so nice in the showroom.  (I’m sure I’ve just dated myself.)

In the fifty’s a slick salesperson sold my mother a low-slung black and pink sofa.  Yes, black and pink.  Of course within a year it was completely outdated and she spent the next ten years covering it up when people came to visit.

Somewhere in LA or New York there’s a team of style-makers conspiring to create the latest trends and figuring out how to make what people purchased in 2016 seem completely out of style. 

Okay, so what does all this have to do with Alzheimer’s?

Well, I’ve been thinking about what’s happening across our country right now.  I understand the wave of senior citizens (Baby Boomer’s) or the so called Silver Tsunami that is upon us.  I see the work being done through various Alzheimer’s groups and organizations.  I understand the push to educate and bring Alzheimer’s into the public consciousness.  All of this momentum, if sustained, will change people’s view of the disease and make funding the cure a reality.  There will be no need to cover up Alzheimer’s or hide it in the darkness.  We’ll be able to face it head on, which I believe is the only way to fight it.

But, and this is a “Big But” (watch your spelling Jane), it must not be a short term trend. It cannot be the passion for a season.  The culture we live in rarely attaches to anything for the long haul. 

The “Al” I know is relentless and counting on our collective short-term attention span.  He knows he doesn’t stand a chance with people who are fighters, willing to continue the battle even when they’re tired or disappointed or when some other flag is waved in front of them pleading for their attention.

The month of June was designated “Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month”, and this year many famous people and celebrities joined the campaign to End Alzheimer’s.  But every month needs to be Alzheimer’s Awareness Month because for the families living with “Al”, every day is Alzheimer’s Day, filled with mounting challenges.

So go out and buy that shiny new grey car (the “it” color this year).  But if you know someone struggling with Alzheimer’s, and I’ll bet you do, stay with us for the long haul. We’ll wave a purple flag together.  Let’s make purple the “it” color this year and every year until we’ve conquered Alzheimer’s.

Here on the home front, we recently made a change in Joe’s medications, hoping to lessen side effects from one of the only two widely prescribed Alzheimer’s drugs.  I was concerned about the change, not knowing what the impact might be, but the side-effects Joe was experiencing were severe enough to warrant it. 

You probably know what’s coming…Stopping the medication did get rid of the side-effects, but it may also have taken Joe off the “bunny slope” and put him on the “black diamond” run heading down the hill at an increasing speed.  

The problem is, we can’t know for sure if the descent would have happened with or without the change in medication.  Maybe the stress of the move and having to adapt to a new environment precipitated the change.  Maybe the periods of lucid days sandwiched between days of confusion were about to end anyway.  Either way, we are where we are (Joe and Al and Jane), looking back up the hill to where we used to be.

Yesterday, on the way home from a doctor’s appointment Joe began to tell me about his wife Jane and something “Jane” had said that day.  So, I listened and I smiled.  But inside I struggled not to cry.  It was a surreal experience to be sitting in the car with Joe and have him talk about me as if he was talking to someone else. 

We’re still settling into our new environment and trying to empty the remaining boxes but this week we took time out to buy a new chair for Joe.  It’s by far the ugliest piece of furniture we’ve ever owned.  In the past, I would have referred to it only as the “R” word (a recliner).  It’s too big, doesn’t match anything in the room and will blow the heck out of my design scheme.  But, it’s just what Joe needs right now and he’ll love it, especially in the middle of a restless night when he’s searching for that comfortable place to be. 

Did I mention that it has electric controls?  We’ll see how Joe and Al manage that one.

Joe modeled for this one.  He's the waiter in the background.