In my local newspaper there was a sad story about a man with Alzheimer’s who wandered away in the middle of the night and walked a few miles from his home. He ended up at the front door of someone’s house at around 4 a.m., where he proceeded to ring the doorbell multiple times and turned the doorknob. The residents, who had just moved into the home recently, were understandably freaked out and did the right thing by calling 911. But then the male in the house did exactly the wrong thing. He stepped outside with a gun and when he saw the approaching figure, who was now in the yard, he told the person to stop. The person did not obey his orders and kept coming towards him. The resident shot the man in the yard and killed him.
Once the resident discovered that the intruder was actually an elderly man with advanced Alzheimer’s, he felt great remorse. Of course, the family of the man with Alzheimer’s also have to live with the violent and senseless way their loved one died. The police have not charged the man with gun yet, saying while it was foolish to go outside, he did not break any laws.
It’s a sad case all around but one that I unfortunately can see happening more in the future. It is easy for those who have never cared for a loved one with Alzheimer’s to criticize the family for allowing him to escape into the cold night, but we know how difficult it is to keep watch over someone with dementia 24/7. And those with Alzheimer’s may not be cooperative and act odd, even violent, scaring a stranger into taking drastic measures in order to protect themselves. Anti-gun advocates will want to blame weapons in the home, but it still goes back to the person and how they react in a situation.
I think about the several times my dad wandered off and how he could have ended up like this gentleman. It’s a sobering lesson for all of us.
For most families, holidays are filled with opportunities for togetherness, sharing, laughter and memories. However, holidays can also be filled with stress, disappointment and sadness. This is especially true for individuals experiencing memory loss or other dementia symptoms and their caregivers. See below for a few tips that may help make the holiday season a little less stressful:
- Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage.
Unless you have been living under a rock this week, you’ve probably noticed the media coverage of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Many people are taking to social media outlets to report where they were when they heard the sad and shocking news.
Since I wasn’t born yet, I have to wonder where my parents were on that fateful day. I’m pretty sure my mom was in the Navy but I’m sure she will let me know in our next phone conversation. I’ve written many times on this blog about how my Dad practically worshipped the Kennedy family. So I know he would have taken the news particularly hard. His naturalization record is dated 1965, so I’m guessing that in 1963 he was already in the Los Angeles area. Since it happened on a Friday afternoon, I’m guessing he would have been at work, but sadly, I don’t know where exactly he was when he heard the news.
And that’s not because Dad didn’t talk about it. I’m sure he told us on several occasions where exactly he was and how he felt, etc. But I never recorded the information. In fact, I probably ignored it, because when Dad started talking about the Kennedy family, he could go on for a long time. As a teenager, I never thought I would care about remembering such information. But of course, you grow up and wise up.
And now I’m left wondering where Dad was and how he felt on such a personally devastating day. Don’t be left like me, with gaping holes in your family history. Ask the questions now, while your loved ones are still alive and able to provide you with answers.
The rampant and dangerous use of antipsychotic drugs to treat dementia symptoms in elderly patients has been in the spotlight recently due to Johnson & Johnson being hit with a $2 billion fine for the false marketing of Risperdal. Could the answer to this disturbing trend be yet another medication?
A drug called Pimavaserin is undergoing a trial right now to examine its safety in treating Alzheimer’s disease psychosis. Currently there is no medication on the market that specifically treats this condition, and we’ve seen the consequences of the off-label use of other antipsychotic drugs. I saw what Risperdal did to my father and readers of this blog were vocal about their concerns in properly medicating those with dementia.
One would hope that a medication can be created to ease the mental and emotional suffering of dementia patients without turning them into walking zombies.
This past week, Johnson & Johnson was fined over $2 billion for false marketing and providing kickbacks to doctors and medical care providers regarding the off-label use of the drug Risperdal. I’ve written before how much my father’s mental and physical health declined after being prescribed Risperdal in the nursing home. Omnicare, which supplied my father’s medications, also paid a major fine of $98 million.
I remember the indifferent attitude the doctor at the local hospital had when I questioned the use of Risperdal, which was already controversial even while my dad was still alive. The doctor just shrugged his shoulders and said they had to continue prescribing what the doctor from the nursing home had ordered. He asked me if I knew what it was for and I responded “to make patients like zombies so they’re easier for the nursing home staff to deal with” and the doctor agreed with a laugh. I did not find it funny at all.
Fines don’t bring back our loved ones who were harmed by this drug, but perhaps it will make pharmaceutical giants, doctors and nursing homes think twice before prescribing medications that can cause great harm to their patients. It’s difficult for caregivers to keep track of all of the medications being provided to a loved one when they are in a nursing home. I only discovered the extensive medication list for my dad when I examined the invoices that had been mailed to my mother from Omnicare. They wanted their money, over several thousand dollars worth racked up in less than a year, when in fact they were pushing a drug that was hazardous for elderly patients with dementia like my dad.
I’m not one for overzealous lawsuits and I’m not necessarily anti-corporate, but I’m glad that the whistleblowers exposed these companies for the malicious practices they were engaged in that impacted those with mental health issues who could not defend themselves. Better late than never when it comes to justice.
For two weeks, my Mom has been relentless on the topic of mail. Some days, she will call more than 5 times in an hour to discuss the topic. "Kay, I'm not getting any mail. Are you getting all of my mail now?" Nothing has changed, so I'm a little confused about her question.
I've been in her apartment when the mail is delivered.