Mini Series – Part three
Husband faces challenges in coping with wife’s ‘early onset’
By Gail M. Brown
According to national statistics, there are more than 200,000 Americans under the age of 64 diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Earlier it was termed “working age dementia,” and today, it is referred to as “early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s.”
Such early diagnoses are shockingly devastating to the families. Joseph Brazeal of Brandon has relived such a shock over and over since his wife Kim was diagnosed six years ago at age 46, when they lived in Little Rock, Ark.
“I think it may have actually begun earlier than that,” he told The Mississippi Link. He said his wife was a teaching recruiter at Camp Robinson.
She had begun to do things like withdraw large sums of money out of the bank, forget to pickup their son, etc.
“We all were devastated; her mother was already in a nursing home, so our initial days of learning about the disease were difficult. It put a terrible strain on our marriage and our children,” Brazeal said.
He applauds the blessing of relocating to Mississippi and his opportunity with Entergy. “Oh, I can’t express how grateful I am to Entergy for understanding what I have to go through. They have really been wonderful!” He said it is so important for caregivers to have employers with compassion.
The Mississippi Link talked in-depth with Brazeal via telephone regarding his ordeal in coping with the “invader” that has disturbed the sanctity and the peace in his home. In the following paragraphs, he shares some of his thoughts and challenges:
“The biggest thing is ‘honesty’ and really keeping your emotions in check.
“Let me say, there are times [when] I get very “angry” and frustrated. That’s when my faith steps in, something will happen. I’ll see a rainbow, or some beauty, or one of my grandchildren will do something to pull me back. You can get so, so depressed over this.
“I get lonely, that is an aspect that’s not [often] thought of. I miss Kim so much. I look into her eyes and see her ‘so lost.’ I see someone slowly, slowly fading in every way, and I think now, during the times when she lies about bathing, brushing her teeth, wearing the same thing, and my ‘mind’ wanders to when one day she won’t be here. What then? That’s where it is easy to get so down. How does one cope with that? It’s real. I think, what about the next few years? They say it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
“Now, well, she is fairly okay. But even now, each morning as I feed her breakfast, the odd thing is, she lets me. She is capable, but she is losing weight.
“I think this is more than just a story here. It is a message to our society that we need to do more…more …to help ourselves.
“What I mean is we are losing sight as a society. These are human beings. We need to figure out ways to come together as a community. We don’t need programs from the government, but as a community – through our churches. There are ways we can build our community.
“With the children, we can continue as we are, or step up and do the right thing. These children are angry. Not just ‘children of the lost,’ (meaning of parents with memory loss disease) but children from broken homes, parents on drugs, parents terminally ill, parents…well…who are forced to be parents but are aged (grandparents). [Otherwise], we build more detention centers, deal with kids blasting movie theaters, more prisons, more hate, crimes… Instead, we need to meet this head on.
“I can tell you as a result of this, in my situation, Carrie (my daughter) saw the ‘weak links’ in Kim and started acting out while I was at work, and ‘momma is gone,’ (mentally). She took advantage of the situation, subsequently skipped school and ended up teenage ‘pregnant.’ God blessed us with Tristan… there is more, though.
“My middle child, Joseph, well, he was left behind and got involved in alcohol and drugs. The kids need to cope but the counselors at school see ‘trouble’ not a ‘troubled child’ and all society wants to do is dope them up with drugs and what do they turn to: violent video games, other kids, escape from their pain; from what was once “normalcy” to now insanity.
“There is no way to explain this but with “honesty.” To hide or not talk about it is as much of a problem as the problem itself. Then, those that could help don’t know what to do or think they might “get it” if they would visit. Yet again, another anger issue I have at times with “so called” church people.
“God helps me find peace and I rejoice in Him.
“That is why I say, you have to get the children out of the home. I started dealing with this disease when my children were eight and nine. I am not sure about the one and three-year-olds up to age of seven. Right now, we are doing okay, but as they (the grandchildren) age, I hope Carrie will have her education and move on her own for the sake of normalcy. Then again, I don’t know how much time Kim has. Early onset is tricky like that.
“By the way, I have made up my mind with her latest illnesss (emphysema nodules on the lungs), I am only going to keep her comfortable. “Another point, the medical side is just “cope.” We are at this point in the disease as we were with the heart in 1790. Lets give you a good bleeding. That’s what the “drugs” do. They bled George Washington to death, you know. Same here, with this disease. There is no cure, and the mind/brain is so complex where does one begin?
“I say we tap into the Nation Plan (The national Alzheimer’s plan by the Obama administration). We need to have more input at that level in terms of early onset. I truly believe we have ‘under diagnosed’ many.
“But there is hope. God has a plan. I think what you (The Mississippi Link) are doing is so “on target” and I thank you.”
There are more than 5.4 million American diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Brazeal said his company supports the fight against Alzheimer’s, in particularly the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. “Entergy is a sponsor again this year,” he said. He and colleagues are planning to participate in the upcoming 2012 Jackson Walk to End Alzheimer’s Sept. 15, at 9 a.m. downtown Jackson at the Mississippi Museum of Art – Art Garden.
For more information and/or to sign up for the walk or to sign on as a sponsor, call the Alzheimer’s Association – Mississippi Chapter at (601) 987-0020 or visit: http://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk/MS-Mississippi?pg=entry&fr_id=1512