Monday, May 18, 2009

Downward Slide

My sister just called to stay that my mother's been diagnosed with vascular dementia, the second most common kind of dementia after Alzheimer's (at least in the States). We knew that something was going on with Mom -- she alternates between lucidity and confusion, and has trouble with basic tasks like getting undressed to take a shower, because she puts clothing back on instead of taking it off -- but we'd hoped that these were side-effects of medication. Taking her off the meds didn't help, though, and only increased her pain level.

My sister and I responded in characteristic ways. Liz took the news in stride, as just a label for something we already knew was happening; I immediately did a Google search and started rattling off questions, and then started crying. I'm terrified of dementia, which frightens me more than cancer. I was so grateful that Dad died with his mind more or less intact -- he had his moments of being somewhere else, but always came back again -- and I hate to think of my mother slipping away. My sister's response was a sad, but matter-of-fact, "She's already half gone."

I don't know how long Mom will be able to keep living with my sister. My sister doesn't know and hasn't asked; they're just taking it day by day, although some of Mom's persistent confusion -- for instance, she keeps holding up her oxygen tubing and saying, "I just don't know where I'm supposed to cut this" -- suggests to me that she may need round-the-clock monitoring. To the best of my knowledge, she hasn't tried to cut the tubing, but what if she did? This is the kind of thing I worry about much more than my sister does; her approach is to deal with things as they happen and not to borrow trouble.

Elsewhere in the wonderful world of bodies, I am, as of this morning, officially overweight. Yesterday I walked for half an hour and swam for forty-five minutes, and I don't think my calorie intake was excessive (although I did have some Forbidden Sugar at church), but when I weighed myself this morning, I weighed two-and-a-half pounds more than I did yesterday. (!) This puts my BMI at 25. Nertz! I know my doctor included thyroid tests in the recent blood panel, so I'll be interested to see what that shows. Otherwise, it's almost certainly just perimenopause. This kind of thing isn't unusual in women my age, but if anyone has tips for how to deal with it, I'd be most grateful.

On the plus side, during my dawn walk yesterday morning, I saw a coyote. Beautiful!


  1. My sister-in-law is loving bioidentical hormones. It's controversial right now, but the women who use them say they are wonderful. Since you're good at research, you should look into it, and make up your own mind.

  2. Well, I am not politically correct in this matter, but the deal is I have partial disabilities and can't go on exercise marathons (though the dogs help tremendously in terms of regular exercise!) and I love food, so my answer is Acceptance. I mean, I don't just give up and sit in a chair eating sugar all day, but at my age (older than yours!) and I am healthy, but I just can't be bothered too much with trying to maintain a thin figure. Probably not your answer but it is mine! Sooo sorry to hear about your Mom. Dementia does suck; it is a long slow loss.

  3. Perimenopause does nasty things to the metabolism. So does stress. Double yuck. Sorry to hear about your mom's latest diagnosis.

  4. Yeah, being past 40 puts weight on you. I'm never going to be my pre 40's 117 again. I have lost weight recently though. Less by design than by being too busy to eat. Liquid breakfast (tea), sandwich or cuppa somthing or other for lunch, and something similarly light for dinner since I had no time to cook. Also didn't have much time for eating either. Calorie free liquids do a lot to make your stomach think it is full and thus not hungry.

    Sorry to hear about your Mom's dementia. I'll add prayers for ways to deal with this coming to you and your sister.


  5. If your clothes fit, don't worry about it. BMI is being criticized a lot these days, as it doesn't recognize the difference between muscle and fat.

  6. Best tip to deal with BMI: IGNORE IT.

    See here. For visual learners, see here.

    Now, for a rant: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS GOOD OR BAD FOOD! Food is good. Food makes your body run, your muscles strong, your brain think. Your brain runs on glucose. You know, SUGAR. Not Splenda, not Sweet n Low, SUGAR.

    Hie thee hence to Shapley Prose and start reading about how the Nocebo Effect might apply to fat people, because despite the acres and acres of good, solid, not-sponsored-by-weight-loss-companies research, we are continually bombarded by OMGTEHDEATHFATZ!

  7. Anonymous10:51 AM

    Sorry to hear about your Mom. My Dad has dementia; a specialist said it's Alzheimer's, his GP said vascular dementia. The end result is the same. My Dad's been in the dementia unit of a VA hospital going on three years now, ever since he got to be too much for my Mom to handle.

    It's hard to accept, but once I did, it got a lot easier. I miss my Dad as he was, but have become much enamored of him as he is now. Fortunately, I have my mother and two siblings in the area, so I'm not having to go it alone.

    I'll keep you and your Mom in my prayers.

    Jeff P.

  8. Weight changes like that (seemingly somewhat drastic from one day to another) can often be water weight, rather than adipose tissue.

    I hear you on how frustrating it can be to be doing "healthy" things and seeing a number go in the "wrong" direction, though. My answer has been to try to let go of the "wrong" sensor and focus on how I am feeling in my body.


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