A friend of mine takes care of her 82-year-old mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. It’s a typical situation were four sisters take turns every other two days to provide 24 hours care for the mother Angelina, who has been a widow for over ten years.
The story goes that Angelina was a very sharp, witty, engaging senior until she got hit by the Alzheimer’s symptoms disease about three years ago. The irony is that due to her failing hearth everyone thought Angelina’s life would end of a heart attack but now her heart condition is the last of anyone’s worries.
My friend tells me that her mother Angelina seemed to adjust fairly well after losing her husband whom she served an entire life. That is to say that Angelina’s life was entirely devoted to serve her husband and their children, in that order. It was not that the man was a bad husband or bad father he was just an old school man-of-the-house kind of a guy.
He would work like a beast, smoke like a chimney and drink beer at home (never went out to a bar) while Angelina and the children’s existence depended on his well-being.
It was a classic patriarchal situation in a traditional catholic family. Under this tradition, the man had full power and authority over anything and everyone in the house. The food had to be ready at his need and will and children would run and hide when he got home not knowing what his mood would be when he got home.
But let’s face it, despite the strict discipline the family was subjected to, Dad was a good if not a model father considering that he was a provider and a moral pillar of the family.
I wonder how many of us would rather have a Dad like him instead of having been raised by a single mother playing both roles. On the other hand, I wonder how it must be living an entire life under somebody’s thumb and although not being a victim of domestic physical violence, live an entire life in legal servitude by reading her master’s mind as one of the main purposes day in and day out.
I have heard numerous stories about couples that lived several generations together and when one goes missing it becomes difficult for the other one to cope or even survive. However, in Angelina’s case, the bereavement transition was rather smooth and non-consequential, mostly facilitated by weekend family gatherings to cook breakfast and tell stories or laugh about family memories accentuated by Mom’s wit.
“Mom is a comedian,” my friend said once referring to how Angelina became the center of the gatherings still unaware that the terrible disease was about to disrupt their family relations. “I remember when Mom said, drinking black coffee is like kissing a man with mustache”.
On another instance, while watching a country singer performing on television Angelina said “that man looks like a tall glass of lemonade in a hot summer day.” What..? I don’t know about anyone else but I would have been like….MOOOOM……!?!?!?!?!?!?!??.
Quite frankly I was rather surprised by the alleged Angelina’s remarks. Where in Angelina’s mind was this cognition hidden, I thought. She had only kissed one man in her life and I very much doubt she would even think of having it otherwise. Where would a woman who never left her house, never had a job, never learned how to drive, hardly socialize even with neighbors would conjure the relationship between the taste of black coffee and the sensation of the roughness of a mustache and would also show a glimpse of lust for a country singer. This reasoning makes me think of a relationship between Alzheimer’s and Angelina’s many years of living under someone else’s will.
Dr. Marie A. Bernard, Deputy Director for the National Institute on Aging or NIA, says that studies have shown a higher risk correlation between high blood pressure and dementia amongst women. She also says that women who have a specific gene, APOE4, have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Congenital or not, why is it that two-thirds of the 5.8 million Alzheimer’s sufferers are women as the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and the AARP claim in a recent report. Because we also know that emotional trauma has been proven to be a cause for Dementia such as multiple personalities, a mental disorder characterized by at least two distinct identities, a condition which is manifested in the person’s behavior and memory loss.
I wonder then if, in the case of our friend, Alzheimer’s is a disorder caused by being negated the development of her own identity and to that extent, how talk therapy would be more helpful as opposed to Angelina’s daily cocktail of drugs. In other words, could it be possible that Angelina’s life history of repressed feelings, emotions or ability to express her opinions is impacting her personality more so than her memory deficiency?
I’m not an authority but as a regular consumer, I wonder if there is any clinical research that shows that at least in Angelina’s case conventional talk therapy may be a more humane and effective approach to reverse Alzheimer’s. A notion perhaps supported by the fact that this terrible disease is more prevalent among women which may hint to male-dominated socialization or environment.