Home for the holidays

The word came down this past August, and the word wasn’t real good. Mom’s worst fears had come true. The deteriorating short term memory problem that had been buggin’ her for months was indeed the Big A. Alzheimer’s.

Ever since, she’d been packing a serious case of the blues, which was understandable. Dozens of times a day, maybe even hundreds, she’d be reminded via the failure of her now-tattered short-term memory that she now had this rust on her brain, that the rust was spreading, and that it would eventually kill her. I imagine when faced with such a situation, it’s a bit difficult to summon a Bobby McFerrin-style “don’t worry be happy” attitude. Mom was keepin’ it real; anybody espousing “don’t worry be happy” was fair game for a ferocious 79-year-old scowl.

In these last few months, nothing has really worked in terms of a mood-lightener. The doctor has repeatedly tried to assure her that she has at least two years left of a somewhat normal life before the rust begins to overwhelm her faculties and her ability to care for herself. She’s not particularly reassured by that. She doesn’t drive any more, which, while an intelligent precaution, also pisses her off. She’s not stranded; hubby is there to be the driver. But still. She’s not afraid of dying, or so she says. What she’s afraid of is becoming a zombie in a wheelchair, just marking time in a home until some key organ finally caves in.

The Zoloft didn’t work. I tell her that maybe she just needs to get the right “happy” pill, but she says she’s not particularly interested in getting pharmaceutically flatlined. I haven’t wasted much energy trying to convince her otherwise, but now, I’m thinking that I should. Yes, there are a host of side effects that are a big part of dealing with the firm of Paxil, Prozac and Wellbutrin, but, then again, there are a whole lot of endorsements and testimonials out there as well. I mean, this ain’t a multi-billion-dollar biz because those pills are placebos. And really, when you’re 79, who cares about your damned libido?

I can appreciate, though, that she doesn’t really want to learn to live with Alzheimer’s. What she wants to do is make it go away. And right now, there just isn’t a whole lot to do on that front. There are some drugs in play, like Numenda and Aricept, which can be helpful in holding the line on brain rust. But they aren’t Big Breakthroughs. In the next 10 years, chances are good that something big will break on the drug front, something that will really be significant, something that will hold off the disease and actually fight back. I joke with Mom that that news will break on the day I get her ashes from the crematorium. She tries to laugh. I need to remember to knock off the dark humor. Fortunately, in just a few seconds, it’s forgotten. This is like being in a movie.

Then, she read about a study done at the Scripps Institute in San Diego where researchers were looking at the effect of THC on Alzheimer’s. Yep, THC, as in the active ingredient of marijuana. The study said, very cautiously, that THC just might prevent the progression of the disease due to its ability to block the creation of a certain brain enzyme. Quickly, Mom was on the horn. “Get down here. And bring some pot.”

Next week—Firin’ Up at Big Momma’s House.