Alzheimer’s and my Dad

Last time I wrote about Ken Kosik’s talk The Adult Brain and Memory: How Learning Protects Against Alzheimer’s, given at the Learning & the Brain conference this past April. This morning my Mom sent me a link to a New York Times article about the University of Colorado, politics, and political chairs. While at the NYT site I started to read today’s paper, which brought me to Zen and the Art of Coping With Alzheimer’s.

I began Neuron’s Firing a little over a year ago, in April of 2007. One of my early posts, Brain Stats, covered not only statistics about the size and contents of our brains, but also noted one reason why the brain was of such interest to me. My Dad has Alzheimer’s. He is 82 and a half years of age and lives in a nursing home fifteen minutes from my home. His sister, who was seven years older than he, was operated on for a brain tumor in her 70s and somewhere in her 70s or 80s developed Alzheimer’s. She died of complications, perhaps from a stroke, in her 80s. And there is some question as to whether their mother, who lived into her early 90s, had Alzheimer’s, as well, though there isn’t anyone around who is able to clarify this for certain.

It is particularly interesting to watch the two videos on the Zen and the Art of Coping With Alzheimer’s page: Alzheimer’s: Quest for Understanding, and Alzheimer’s: The Rarest Gene. Both videos tell personal stories but also include research, interviews with researchers, and images that help give a picture of what is happening to Alzheimer inflicted brains.

There is no easy way to watch my Dad degenerate, but I discovered a way to keep him close; I started a blog on his behalf. The entries are packed with pictures and even some short video clips, and I write about what we do during my visits. Somehow, this makes me feel like he still has his voice, and meanwhile I am building a memory bank for him/of him, that everyone in the family can read. And on those visits that turn out to be tough, knowing I’ll be writing about it later has, so far, made those visits a little bit easier.

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