I’m worried about Mom’s legs. We were out for about two hours and by the time we started walking home, mom was complaining about pains in her legs and her gait was noticeably shorter.
It turns out that our gait—the way we walk or stride—can reflect not only physical disabilities but neurological conditions. Talk about medical information I never thought I’d know. There’s a Parkinsonian gait and a gait that is prevalent in stroke victims, myopathic gaits (from muscle diseases), and others. People with Alzheimer’s sometimes exhibit balance problems and develop a slow gait as their disease progresses. Eventually they loose the ability to walk and function on their own.
I try to be with Mom in the moment rather than focus on what will be. We enjoyed ourselves out in the bright sunshine, and we came home tired and satisfied. The leg pains went away after a short rest.
Unfortunately, at the back of my mind is what we must prepare for.
Alzheimer’s sites talk about the three stages of the disease as mild, moderate and severe, or early, middle, and late. They list the defining attributes in each stage like a grocery list of spoiled foods that you don’t want in your cart. Here’s the list of behaviors in the “moderate” stage from the Best Alzheimer’s Products website:
Sequencing and logic become further impaired;
Increasing difficulty finding the right words, often make up words;
Mood swings and personality changes become more pronounced;
Inappropriate judgment becomes a bigger problem;
Hygiene neglected, likely because of forgetfulness and inability to initiate the behavior necessary;
Physical abilities further diminish;
Sleep disturbances become a problem;
Psychotic behavior, paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions are not unusual as this stage progresses;
More pronounced memory loss;
Inappropriate social behavior;
Sleep disorders, including disruptions in the sleep/wake cycle and sundowning;
May lose the ability to read and write;
Repetitive speech and/or movements.
What the sites don’t tell you is how prolonged or difficult the transition from one stage to another is or how complex—physically and emotionally—it is to navigate the transition. We are sometimes frustrated and perplexed beyond words by Mom's behavior. Practical rules do not apply.
Perhaps there is no transition as such: it’s more of a continuous slide into a dark place we do not want to go.
It is not all bleak. I visited my sweet friend Sarah in the hospital yesterday after she had hip surgery to reduce the impingement of her joint on her ability to walk. Less than 24 hours after the surgery, she got out of bed unassisted and walked with crutches around her hospital room. I felt so proud of her, and I know she is already home and on the road to recovery.
As my youngest says, everything is in God’s hands. We might not choose to have an illness that will incapacitate us, but we can choose to find the joy and love that each day brings, to see the now for its potential to fill us with light. We must live each day, each encounter, on its own terms. When we plan for the worst that is to come, we must do so with gratitude knowing the now is a good place to be.
I’ll be off line for the next two weeks as I travel to China (!!) as the staff escort for AACI’s Kosher and Friendly trip to China. The Chinese government blocks Facebook and Google access, so I’ll have only sporadic contact even with my family. As fate would have it, I had planned to feature a dish that is Chinese in flavor. Maybe I’ll bring back some new recipes from the trip.
Whole Chinese Chicken
This chicken cooks to a tender, moist uniformity that will leave you with a craving for more.
1 whole chicken
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp date honey
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp mustard
½ tsp ginger
3 cloves garlic minced
¼ tsp black pepper
Measure and mix sauce ingredients in a container with a lid. Shake well. Place chicken in zip-lock bag or other marinade container and pour in sauce. Close bag well and rotate until all chicken is covered in sauce. Marinade chicken for at least an hour in refrigerator (or even overnight), turning to allow for even saturation. Remove chicken to baking dish with sauce, and bake at 350° for one hour uncovered.