There's No Path Back
I recently heard a radio show about an Alzheimer’s patient, who, when unable to draw a clock as part of his doctor’s assessment, went home and relearned how to do it. This fellow, a former physicist, was one year into his diagnosis. He was aware of having Alzheimer’s, aware, too, of the cognitive skills that the clock test was trying to assess.
What an extraordinary feat of mental capacity, I marveled as I heard the story. How amazing that this man regained lost skills by thinking and examining the problem before him.
I expect that this individual is the exception to the rule. Most Alzheimer’s patients, while self-aware—meaning they know they are losing their memories—do not understand what is happening to them.
When Mom was diagnosed, she refused to acknowledge she had Alzheimer’s. We stopped trying to coerce her into accepting our explanation, realizing it was better for her to respond to her emotions as she experienced them. I remember the ache of standing with her in the kitchen, my arms around her as she cried helplessly that something terrible was happening to her.
Some Alzheimer’s patients maintain the ability to communicate effectively for some time after their diagnosis. As with most diseases, the course the disease takes within an individual is unique to them. There are sign posts and stages, standards and junctures, but it is often hard to tell how an individual measures up against the medical terms of the disease.
In his sentient state, the man in the radio interview realized that even while he had regained his ability to read a clock, he would soon lose the skill again. “There’s no path back,” he explains. “There is no path back.”
I thought about all of this as I was getting ready to leave my parents’ apartment today. Mom asked if my parents knew I would be going. “I don’t know,” I said, turning to Daddy. “Do my parents know I’m leaving now?” A little laugh, I thought, a chuckle over how we cope. Even when Daddy told her I was their child, Mom couldn’t work it out for herself. Ah well. I know I’m loved, and love in return. That’s the bottom line as we walk tentatively forward—without hope of retrieving the past.
The last few years have seen an increase in promoting healthy diets as a way to stave off the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. One such diet plan is the MIND diet, which recommends at least two servings a week of green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli.
Known as “brain foods,” broccoli, for instance, is a great source of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve brainpower.* Here’s a recipe that combines all sorts of healthy green vegetables to create a smooth, aromatic soup.
This recipe is one for the olfactory system as well as the taste buds. The smells of peppery celery, aromatic dill, parsley, broccoli, fresh basil, sharp garlic and onion combine into one amazing soup. Think of it as your brain’s protection.
1 onion chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 head broccoli in florets
1 package fresh spinach leaves (approx. 200 gr)
3 celery stalks, chopped
¼ cup fresh dill
¼ cup fresh basil
¼ cup fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
6-8 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, fry onions and garlic in olive oil. Add in remaining vegetables and spices. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 1 hour. Remove bay leaves and with a hand-held blender, blend in the pot. Serve hot or cold.
* Vasanthi, Hannah R.; Mukherjee, Subhendu; Das, Dipak K., “Potential Health Benefits of Broccoli- A Chemico-Biological Overview,” Mini Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry, Vol. 9, No. 6, June 2009, pp. 749-759