Of the three, she continues on, not having escaped dementia but somehow succeeding in staving it off to the end. Her sisters have passed on, one with a great body but very little functional brain; the other with a functional brain but a body that just quit working (page 49).Comparison of these three sisters forms the basis for Mayo's research, as she tries to understand the influences on each one's health or lack thereof. While examining her relatives aging, Mayo cites the impact of family history, head injuries, education, and an Alzheimer's gene. With her extensive research on dementia, she quotes studies and statisics, but includes exceptions to every "rule."
Chapter nine discusses caregiving and the excrutiating task of being responsible for a parent who is less and less the person you know and love. Mayo shares aspects of her mother's progression through Alzheimers:
- She believed Mayo was trying to steal the family farm.
- She re-married several years after being diagnosed, but on the way to the wedding, forgot she had said "yes" to the proposal, and demanded Mayo take her home.
- She had several behavioral problems at the care facilities she lived in (power struggles with staff, fights with other residents, etc), and Mayo was called on more than one occasion and asked to make other arrangments.
- She told Mayo she did "everything she could to miscarry" when she was pregnant with her.
When Mother died, I missed her. The unrelenting responsibility for over twenty years and the contrant second-guessing of what the best care might be had been part of our relationship, not its totatlity. Those who seek to avoid caring for a loved one risk missing an experience that has the portential to heal, teach and satsify (p 181).Chapter 10 is titled Dying with Dignity. I couldn't read all of it. It's filled with hope and faith and gestures toward eternity, but it's beyond my ability to process right now. When the time comes, this will be a helpful resource, but I'm going to keep it on the shelf until then.
The most poignant message of the book is to live well mentally, physically and spiritually. Mary Ann Mayo sums it up well by stating, "Alzheimer's is a crash course in learning to live in the moment" (p 24).