Remembering Manuel...(Alzheimer's/dementia)

By Jerry Aragon

For two weeks, that Manuel was living in our ward, I got the opportunity to see (up close and personal), what this dreadful disease is all about, and I can's not good...NOT good at all. Dementia and Alzheimer's are similar, and I can't really tell the difference, so the best way to proceed, is the define both of the illnesses.

* Alzheimer's disease: (definition); a progressive form of pre-senile dementia that is similar to senile dementia, except that it usually starts in the 40's or 50's; first symptoms are impaired memory, which is followed by impaired thought and speech and finally complete helplessness!

* Dementia: (definition); deterioration of intellectual faculties, such as memory, concentration, and judgment...sometimes personalty changes. Dementia is caused by organic damage to the brain (as in Alzheimer's), head trauma, metabolic disorders, or the presence of a tumor.

As you can see, the pair are closely related. I consider the time I spent around Manuel a blessing, because I saw for myself what this terrible disease can do! I was told by the nurse, that Manuel had dementia, and told me he was 48 years old, and had the mind of a two or three year old. She did not elaborate beyond that. Manuel spent most of his day, in a lounge chair, in front of the nurse's station, so they could keep a closer watch on him. He was hand-fed; bathed; dressed; and had trouble communicating, etc. At times during the day, he would have temper-tantrums, and cry out loud...just like a baby would do! This is hard to believe, unless you witness something like this yourself.

I don't think Manuel knew where he was, and he had that "blank stare" about him. He would look around as if he was in a daze! It was so sad to see another human being, who had no idea where he was! Some people have really been dealt a terrible hand in life...and Manuel was one of them. After about two weeks in the ward, he was moved to another facility, which would take better care of him, and he would spend the rest of his life in an institution! A sad story indeed!

* * *

In the early 1960's, my grandmother probably died of Alzheimer's disease, but doctor's probably didn't know what it was back then. She would go to the store, and couldn't find her way back, or she would be found out by the railroad tracks and would be brought back home by police. She was placed in a mental institution where she died!

In the year 2006, I'm 61 years young...and old age bothers and worries me! But, as shown in the Manuel story...a person doesn't have to be old, to worry about these two diseases! I worry about the forgetfulness I have had recently. For example:

* One day, I drove into the gas station, bought some gas for the car. I drove away, forgetting to put the gas in the car! About a block down the street, I realized what I had done, and I turned around and came back and put the gas in the car!

* In another incident, I was boiling eggs on the stove, and went on with my day around the house. All of a sudden, I heard a "POP" coming from the kitchen! It sounded like a fire-cracker! I raced into the kitchen, to find egg shells all over the floor, where the egg had exploded! All the water in the pan had evaporated, and the other eggs in the pan were about to explode as well. (I didn't know eggs exploded)

* When I got home from work, I would drive by the mail-boxes at the apartments where I live to check the mail. I would usually leave the car running, and jump out of the car quickly and check the mail, etc. On this day, I jumped out of the car, and instead of getting back in the car, I walked home reading the mail and forgetting about the car. Two hours later, I needed to go someplace, and when I went out to get in the wasn't there! I thought somebody had stolen it! I looked toward the mailboxes, and there it was...and had run out of I left it running! "Am I losing my mind!" I thought to myself!

* * *

Leaving politics aside, and at the age of 70, when most people are settled into retirement, President Reagan was elected and was one of our greatest Presidents. For it was him, that led the way, in eliminating the dangerous Cold War from the face of the Earth, which could have killed all of us! The "Great Communicator"...later died of Alzheimer's, after a long bout with the disease!

Remembering Manuel...I'll never forget him! I do this, by having a copy of this story (framed) and on the wall in my home office. There is not a day, that I don't glance at that framed story on the wall...and it is a reminder to myself...about how lucky I am, and that things could be worse!

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Copyright; Jerry L. Aragon (The Humor Doctor) 2006

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