Alzheimer's & Diabetes: Can't Forget

IMG_3162This morning, The Kid donned her furry Halloween costume and, with the promise of candy, traipsed behind a kind lady to a room filled with older ladies and gentlemen. We were part of a toddler parade at the local Memory Care & Alzheimer’s facility and I watched as the faces of these individuals lit up when small fairies, Spidermen, Supermen, ladybugs, Dorothy clutching a stuffed Toto, and my daughter, cavorted around.

They were all in varying stages of the disease that robs them of the thing I hold most dearly: their memories.

Some clapped and joyfully engaged with the children, asking them about their costumes. Others sat quietly, staring without emotion at the hullabaloo. One man didn’t speak at all, but when The Kid batted an orange balloon at him, he smiled and tossed it back to her. She fell down, giggling, in front of him and he reached down to grab her foot and shake it playfully. She grinned at him, he grinned back, and then she took off to look at the fish tank.

When I glanced back thirty seconds later, he was gone; physically still there, but lost in himself. I saw his spark ignite and extinguish in the space of a few minutes. My heart didn’t so much as break as melted.

One of my great uncles (my grandfather was one of thirteen, so there were a lot of great aunts and uncles growing up), Bill, drifted off into the horizon with Alzheimer’s when I was young, but I was shielded to the devastation that it wreaks on a family. It’s one of my greatest fears to be diagnosed with it (along with having a fatal myocardial infarction at a young age) and here I was, face-to-face with those who live with it – and in it.

Scientists are linking diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease these days. You can read about the link here , or here, or get your scholarly info here.

In a nutshell, the people who are a lot smarter than most of the world say that blood vessels in the brain are damaged by high blood sugars and that inflammation also plays a part in the aging of brain cells. The damage can be done years before the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease show up, so all anyone can say is the same as we always hear: keep your glucose levels within range, eat healthy, and get regular exercise.

I can’t forget the happy look on that man’s face – and then the absence of any emotion – and I sit here now, wondering if diabetes will take away yet something else from me in the years ahead.

If you wonder why I advocate and raise my voice for diabetes awareness and healthy living, this is one reason. One reason of many.

  1. Alzheimer’s scares me. We read the book “Still Alice” a couple months ago in our book club, and it wrecked me. I’ve seen it up close in too many people I love. Thank you for advocating and bringing awareness – to diabetes, and everything that goes around it.

  2. If I’m being honest, a part of me likes to live under a rock and pretend that this won’t happen to me. Alzheimers, neuropathy, gastroparesis — none of it. It won’t happen to me.

    I know it’s naive to think this, but it’s better than being all-consumed by the fear. It’s like terrorism. Some will say that living in fear means the terrorists have won. Yes, if I See Something, I’ll Say Something, but unless and until something happens, I won’t let myself worry. Just the same, I won’t concede and say diabetes has (or will, inevitably) beat me. I’ll just be careful, control my blood sugars as best as I can, and hope for the best. What else is there?

    Did I just really compare diabetes to al Qaeda? I guess I did…

    1. I fear spiders. Big time. And other things, but I don’t let the fear consume me.
      Unfortunately, the terrorists snuck into my stomach years ago and the gastroparesis attacked. I fought back with knowledge and plan on continuing to fight.
      Can I join you under the rocks? I’ll bring snacks.

      1. Sure, you can join me in denial under the rocks. It’s probably not the most healthy – or realistic – place to be, though. Fighting back against the terrorists, or diabetes, or whoever, is the only way to make sure they(it) don’t(doesn’t) win. You’re doing a good job with that so far.

  3. My mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s and her wonderful life was cut short by too many years. (No diabetes though.) It’s a horrible and cruel disease and I hate that diabetes might be linked to it. I reassure myself that I’m OK by typing in my 14-digit library card number by memory whenever I check out e-books.

  4. I try to temper the fear (and a fair amount of ignoring it) with the notion that knowledge, understanding, and care of both diseases is increasing each day. Thanks for the enlightenment.

  5. Hi Chrystel! My mom has Alzhiemer’s and I have type1 and I have written that for all the years she advocated for me, it was my turn to pick up the standard for both of us. It’s also been interesting to talk with other d-advocates who are in the same place!

    Last week, I wrote a blog on the 23andMe article that is in Nov. Fast Company magazine, because I agree with genetic testing, but am hesitent to just give my sample to a company that will sell whatever for money.

    For me, your timing was poignant, as we were in sync! 😉

  6. So sweet that you’re daughter went to the Memory Care Facility, I can’t imagine how much it meant to the residents, no matter their state of mind. The idea that diabetes could be linked to alzhiemer’s is truly frightening. Yikes.

Leave a Reply