Sunday, December 13, 2009

ENG 101 95 Week #15 Practice Final (December 6, 2009) Disaster

WEEK 15 PRACTICE FINAL (December 6, 2009) Disaster. It has many faces.

Disaster. It has many faces. Webster’s dictionary defines disaster as a ”sudden, calamitous event bringing great damage, loss, or destruction.” I have looked disaster in the eye at least three times in my life. One time the disaster was due to a lack of good judgment on my part, on another occasion, I was the victim. And thirdly, when disaster struck, I was a bystander, and I could only stand back and witness the disaster as an act of God.


As a teenager, I enjoyed horseback riding. On day in July, I arrived early for my weekly horseback riding lesson. I watched from a distance as the 3:00 PM class returned from their trail ride, dismounted and lead their horses back into the barn. My enthusiasm was dampened as I observed the steam rising from the horses’ backs and the tired look in their eyes. As my instructor walked towards me I said to him, “This week, can I have a horse with a little spirit?” Troy handed me the reins to his horse and disappeared back into the barn. It would not be long before I would come to regret ever uttering those words.

He returned minutes later, riding a sixteen hand thorough bred which I recognized as Lightning, a five year old gelding that belonged to the owner of the stable. He passed right by me and I quickly realized I was to follow him. I mounted and headed off attempting to catch up to him. But, my horse had other ideas. He reared and circled like a cat trying to catch his own tail. I tightened my grip on the reins, forced my toes to dig deeper into the stirrups, and in desperation pulled my knees together tightly against the saddle to hold on. This last command was the wrong judgment call on my part. To a horse, this meant go faster. I was no longer in control and that could only mean disaster.

I lowered my posture and synchronized my rhythms with this wild animal when I saw the fence just ahead. I knew he was going to jump, something I had never done, nor anything I ever aspired to do either. I braced myself for the inevitable. I unwrapped the reins from around my fingers. It was something I remembered seeing in a Clint Eastwood movie. I did not want my fingers severed when I was thrown off. My eyes shut tightly and I saw flashes of shapes like lightening rods. Suddenly, the saddle horn impacted against my ribs and my whole body was abruptly thrust backwards. I heard my neck crack and felt my teeth clamp down on my tongue. I tasted blood as the strap of my helmet whipped across my face. There were to be two more jumps before my horse would break into a cantor and head back towards the barn. Each jump was more frightening than the previous. I had lost my helmet after that first jump and I was scared.

By now, I had an audience and I was a little more collected. I was talking to my horse by the nickname I had given him. My instructor caught up to us and complimented us both. I told him I would be calling his horse “Thunderhead” from now on. He suggested we take “Thunderhead” and “Lightening” back out to retrieve my helmet but I shook my head from side to side. I looked my horse straight in the face. My better judgment spoke out and said, “No way, not today. That could only bring disaster back.”

As a military family, my husband, three-month-old daughter and I, arrived at Fort Walton Beach, Florida in the summer of 1971. Temperatures were consistently over 100 degrees, but the central heating/air conditioning unit was always on in the house we were renting so we were always quite comfortable.

Being on a SAC Base, I knew my husband could be deployed to South East Asia at a moments notice while at work in the field, maybe not even being allowed to come home to pack. That day came in November just before Thanksgiving. Then, as the days passed and the weather got colder, my daughter and I drew in to ourselves not knowing many of the other families in the area. The central heat was on more now than not and my daughter and I settled in for the long winter together.

We had our routine. As usual, a half hour after I put my daughter down for her morning nap, I would tip toe back into her room to check on her. She usually slept for two hours, but I was a new Mom and with my husband gone, I was her sole caregiver. I was consumed with her needs and very protective. On one such January morning, I opened the second hall door leading to the bedrooms on the other side of the house to check on her.

All of a sudden, I was engulfed by pillars of raging yellow and white flames striking the ceiling and gusts of hot air forced me backwards. Without hesitation, I grabbed the crocheted blanket from the back of the couch beside me, rolled it up and stuffed it under my shirt. I ran head down back towards the blazing inferno. Although I had walked down that hall a hundred times, every step was foreign to me. My eyes were stinging. I blinked repeatedly to try to see more clearly through the billowing gray smoke. The smell of scorched cotton, nauseating plastic and the sounds of crackling pine pitch alerted me to the reality that I was approaching the den, the room we converted to be the baby’s room.

I touched every surface I passed, trying to stay orientated. Although I was knocking pictures off the walls as I made my way down the hall, it kept my sense of direction. I moved more rapidly as the surfaces now became too hot to touch. Finally, my fingers fell upon the hot metal rails of the crib. I grabbed the blanket from beneath my shirt and wrapped it tightly around my daughters sleeping form.

I walked backwards, hunched over the bundle I clenched with in my arms and attempted to find the doorway again. The walls were now sticky from the hot pine pitch and I could feel the heat on my back. I prayed. I thought about my husband on the other side of the world. I thought about the three of us as a family and I was determined to keep moving, not knowing where I may be going.

I felt the hall’s second doorframe, and then imagined the front door being approximately fifteen feet away. The living room rug was 12 feet square and it fell just short of the front door, I remembered. I counted my steps. My eyes were now burning and my tears flushed them with some strange yet cooling relief. I stumbled onto the porch and through the screen door to the sidewalk. I fell to my knees. I resisted as I felt something pulling my child from my arms. I thought it was Death and I would not let go of her.

I unwrapped my Baby as I knelt on the sidewalk. By now, I too had been wrapped in a blanket. She stirred and her clear, bright, blue eyes looked up at me. I sobbed tears of joy. I looked up and saw Torray, a young girl who lived next door. She asked if she could hold my Baby but I declined. Then, she proceeded to hold us both.

The fire marshal surveyed the damage. He concluded the heating ductwork had been improperly installed and maintained by the owner. None the less, the damage was done. Some experiences leave charred embers forever burned into our minds.


I had heard of expressions like “tornado belt, tornado alley, and funnels”, and living in Arkansas, I witnessed first hand the path of devastation a tornado carves through a town. The local radio broadcasts upgraded the imminent storm from a tornado watch to a tornado warning. I knew the drill. Move everyone to a shelter or at least move everyone to a room in the house which faced the opposite direction the wind was blowing. “If the house is going to get blown over, let it blow over behind you“, an old timer once told my husband and I.

I looked out the picture window and there was a dead, still calm. The sky was clear. The wind chimes on the patio hung silently. The pecan trees stood motionless. Neighbors’ children were playing between the houses just as they had done the day before, running, laughing, chasing one another. Within minutes, however, parents were frantically calling there children to come home immediately. I was one of them. On the horizon, a dark cloud was approaching from the southwest. The trees were beginning to lean towards the northeast. We were now in the squall line.

We had practiced the drill with our three children many times before. Yet, somehow I knew, as I panned the backyard as they came running through the sliding glass door, I was looking at something for the last time. My oldest child must have sensed the impending doom as I ushered her and her two younger siblings towards the closet at the end of the house. She barely glanced down at her dollhouse on the floor and went straight to my china cabinet and picked up the yellow porcelain figurine my husband had given me when we were dating. She brought it into the closet with us.

I tested the flashlight and closed the door behind us. I immediately began reading a story to the children. Minutes later, I stood up and told the children I had to get something. I also told them under no circumstances were they to follow me or even open the closet door after I left. I told them I loved each of them and closed the door tightly behind me.

I walked through the house and opened each of the windows several more inches. The glass was beginning to bow and I had to equalize the air pressure. My ears were beginning to block. The wind had picked up and the leaves of the pear trees on the side of the house were now blowing to the east. Then, I heard a whistling sound like an approaching train but there were no train tracks for miles around. I looked out the sliding glass door into the backyard and then I saw it.

The sky was charcoal black and a long, gray tail coiled its way towards the ground. The air rushed out from behind me and my hair blew forward into my face. I watched as the funnel cloud entwined itself around buildings, trash barrels, bicycles, trees, and vehicles and snatched them up like a vacuum cleaner picking up crumbs on a carpet. I held onto the wall as my furniture began to be dragged across the living room and papers went flying everywhere. I was no match for this intruder and I fled to the closet once again.

Huddled inside the closet with my three children, I spoke loudly about frivolous things to mask the noise on the other side of the door. The walls were shifting and my back was rocking against them. The children noticed this too and began to cry. I asked God to spare us and the other families in the neighborhood too. My prayers were heard for some of us. Rain began to drip from the cracked ceiling. I knew we were now on the backside of the storm. I opened the door of our refuge.

We walked solemnly through the debris and soaked clutter heaped in piles in a place we once called home. We stood in an opening that once had a sliding glass door. I looked beyond and tears flooded my eyes. I had witnessed a crime and all the evidence was gone. Only two slab platforms remained as markers to where two homes stood only minutes before. It was surely a disaster well beyond human control.

Now, when I hear someone say something is a disaster, I wonder if it is so because of a lack of good judgment on their part, or are they a victim of circumstances, or is it an act of God ? In any form, they are all hard to face.
ENG 101 95 WEEK # 16 (12-16-2009) Graf #11
Part 1: Course Evaluation
Part 2: Something I have written that I really liked
Part 3: Personal Course Evaluation


Part 1

I have learned the joy of writing and the pleasure it gives me. Fortunately, my instructor has enjoyed my assignments as well. I enjoyed reading the Freestyles and Prompts of my classmates, I feel I now know a little bit about each of them though we have never met. I have gotten a glimpse into their world as they did into mine. I shared their joy and their pain. Isn’t that what writing is all about?

I liked the format of the syllabus: lecture and homework columns by week and date. I looked forward to the variety of topics each week for the Prompts and Freestyles.

I learned the components of a good essay. I learned how to organize my thoughts to make an essay stronger. I now know how to develop at least nine different types of essays. I had many sample essays provided to read to reinforce the application of each style. This was extremely helpful. I now put more conscious thought into something before I say or write it. My confidence was heightened when my instructor suggested several of my essays be submitted for consideration to the Eyrie.

I learned how to create a blog and looked forward each week to posting my assignments and comments. I appreciated the candid feedback, support, and suggestions of my instructor. Initially, I was surprised to see this assignment on the syllabus and somewhat apprehensive. Now, I know what I have been missing all this time. I feel confident in reading and writing on a blog now. I will continue to use this means of communication for personal and business purposes. I thank my instructor for the easy to follow, step-by-step instructions in setting up my blog.

I appreciated the dedication and availability of my instructor. My emails and comments were responded to within 24 hours, often time’s minutes after I sent a message including weekends. My instructor was genuinely compassionate, accommodating, and very supportive when personal circumstances jeopardized my enrollment in his online class. I am grateful for the personal invitation I was extended to come into my instructor’s “live class” for help in finalizing the Isearch project.

I learned how to create a bibliography on line. This proved to be a time saving resource for me. I have shared this with others since, to help them with their high school homework.




Part 2

I am most pleased with my Isearch experience. Although I was assigned the project, it afforded me the opportunity to seek answers to questions I had back many years ago. I have always enjoyed doing research projects and the time and energy I devoted to the research itself was something I looked forward to doing every day.

I feel I have a better understanding of the Alzheimer’s disease and I feel more confident in providing care for my Dad now than before. You will often fear what you don’t know or have a proper perspective of. I can deal with what I know now, funny, that was the topic of one of my assignments!

Personal Course Evaluation

I could not offer any suggestions or improvements on something that is perfect just the way it is.

Friday, December 4, 2009

WEEK #14 ESSAY # 8 (12-03-2009) Comparison Essay

Today, I was sitting at my dining room table addressing a greeting card envelope to send to my folks for the holiday. Trying to recall the new zip code recently assigned to my old neighborhood, I glanced up and stared out the window. I noticed how blue the sky looked today and how different the clouds looked compared to some of the others I have seen over the past few months. We seem to have gone from skies with wispy clouds to ones with billowing clouds sometimes accompanied by strong winds, thunder and lightning, to yet another type with long, horizontal, layered clouds that seem to stretch across the sky like a blanket. While many people see clouds and look for faces in them, today, I began to compare some of the personalities of the people in the neighborhood I grew up in, with the three general cloud types.

Mrs. Nazarro, my Camp Fire Girls’ Leader for 12 years, would be right up there with the
cirrus clouds. Her high spirit and pleasant demeanor was unwavering. Even her features were delicate like. Cirrus clouds are usually a sign of an approaching warm front and this was always the way she appeared as she opened her home to all of us every Friday afternoon after school for our weekly meetings. I recall many pleasant afternoons there.

Mr. Kelly lived two doors down from my family. I would have to compare him to the cumulus cloud type. Whenever we saw him while out shopping around town, he was always cordial to my family and I. He had this long, circular driveway that beckoned anyone riding by on their bicycle to take this little jaunt which just happen to go right by his front door. He traveled frequently so he was rarely at his residence. So, this became a part of our regular route for many of us during the summer as we went up and down the sidewalks on our bicycles. However, it was those times when he was home, and you rode your bike by his front door, that you could feel the temperature in the neighborhood rise a little. When temper-atures get heated, things escalate and so did his voice. Then came the thunder, the rain, and the lightening, as he systematically would challenge anyone else going down the sidewalk that day on a bicycle to stay on the sidewalk and off private property.

Then, there were the “Two Sisters” who lived across the street from us. They would be the stratus cloud type. Their lifestyle was low keyed. They were both elderly, retired school teachers with silver hair which was held back from their face with pearl studded combs. They spoke in soft, uniformly monotone voices. They moved slowly about their house as one would proceed going down the road engulfed in an early morning fog. If you happen to go by their house, they would wave you over to come sit with them. That worked out well for all of us, especially when there was a light rain or drizzle and we could not ride our bikes then. They were very proper and between the two of them, they would clearly “spread out “ in chronological order for all of us listening, when each of our homes in the neighborhood was built , who the original owners were, how many children each family had, etc. It was both comforting and interesting to hear stories about the house you lived in.

Clouds have personalities just like people. I know clouds are formed when air is cooled to its dew point and the water in the air becomes visible. I know dust is also needed to form clouds. I guess riding our bicycles up and down the sidewalks all summer long and leaving a trail of dust behind, my friends and I had a hand in forming some of these clouds.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

WEEK 13 #7 ESSAY DIVISION ESSAY (11-23-2009)

John,
In week 10, ESSAY #5 should have been a Division Essay. Mine evolved into an Example Essay and you accepted it as such. So, this week I would like to do an ESSAY #7, which will be the Division Essay. Thank you for being so flexible with me.

I purchased my home 18 years ago, and I have successfully planted a number of beautiful gardens that have flourished over the years. It was not as simple, however, as just going to Lowe’s and selecting different plants based on which ones appealed to me at the time, and then planting them indiscriminately around the property. My selections and where everything finally got planted was based on some careful analysis beforehand to ensure the best results. Soil type, hours of sunlight, and drainage were just three key factors in selecting plants for my gardens. I began by selecting the trees I wanted that first summer. As my budget allowed, I would add small bushes the following year, followed by perennials and bulbs.

I would recommend you do a soil analysis before doing anything else. Determine if your soil is acidic or basic. My soil was acidic. Pine trees, and deciduous ornamentals like rhododendrons and azaleas love moist, acidic (pH 4.5-6.5), humus-rich soil with good drainage. Five to six hours of sunlight with light shade is preferable. Other selections might include hamamelis (Witch-hazel), hydrangea, and lilac. The areas along the driveway side of the house had all these properties and I planted these trees there. I chose a particular variety in each to keep with a violet color scheme to accent the yellow siding on my house.

Secondly, determine how many hours of sunlight each area of the yard receives each day. One area of my yard received less than five hours of sunlight a day and already had tall, lanky maple trees there. I knew I would need to consider putting “understory” trees there. The serviceberry and dogwood would do well there. So, I purchased two of each. These both had a red to red-violet cast so they worked well in my color scheme too.

Lastly, consider the drainage on the property. Some trees do not like “wet feet“. One particular area of my yard is very wet. I needed to find trees that liked this condition. The Black Willow, Buttonbush, and Pussy Willow were good choices for these areas. The Pussy Willow buds were red in the Spring and the Black Willow had a reddish bark. The Buttonbush had glossy green leaves with red ribs.

These three factors are the most important ones to consider if your garden (trees) is to survive and thrive in a particular area of your yard. Color, texture, size, height, scent, length of blooming time, etc. are all secondary. With a some careful planning in the beginning, you will have beautiful results in the end.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WEEK 11 ESSAY #6 (Nov. 13, 2009) EFFECT ESSAY
In 1991, my husband and I decided to relocate our family of nine from the greater Boston area to our present home in Brewer, Maine. The home we had leased for two years with the option to buy fell through. The owner decided to return to the United States and move back into his family’s homestead for nostalgia reasons.

The real estate market was out of control. Homes we had previously looked at to buy just two years prior had now tripled in value. Many 4-5-bedroom homes in our neighborhood were now being converted into condominiums. An average one-bedroom unit was now 150k or more. We were forced out of this market. We were forced to make some difficult decisions.

We realized that to be able to find a home to suit our needs; we would most likely need to look beyond Massachusetts. We drew a radius from Boston out 250 miles; north, west, and south. Our search began. We prepared ourselves knowing we would need to make some sacrifices. We made the best choice given what was available at that time. We made an offer on our present house in Brewer, having weighed both the benefits and consequences.

My husband would be living alone in a small room in Chelsea to be close to his work and he would commute home to Brewer on the weekends. I would no longer be able to “just drop in” and visit with my folks or other family members during the week, as I drove about town doing everyday errands. While our children would have a comfortable place to live, with a yard in a safe neighborhood, my husband and I would be building an equity in a home we planned to retire in. We closed on this house in July of 1991.

After a few months, we settled into a routine. My husband would leave Boston on Friday night around 5 P.M. and drive straight through to Brewer checking in with us by phone as he made his gas stops en route. I would meet him in the driveway shortly after midnight weather permitting, closer to dawn if traffic was backed up or if there was a storm or accident. Every Friday night, the children brought their sleeping bags, toys, storybooks, school papers, and “gifts” down into our living room and spread everything out on the floor. They watched the clock and each one promised to wake the other should they accidentally fall asleep during their vigil. The children knew their Dad would be too tired to make it up the stairs to his bedroom when he came home. So, they brought his pillow, blankets, slippers, and robe down into the living room and arranged them carefully on his favorite chair. All day Saturday was one huge sleepover in our living room as we just relaxed and talked.

My parents and siblings missed seeing their grandchildren, nieces and nephews during the year, so special effort was made to come to Maine to visit us during the summer for a week or longer and for several days during a holiday. The children were studying Maine history in school the first year we were here, so they were excellent tour guides while we took day trips to show family the various landmarks and attractions. They all enjoyed being just 45 minutes from Bar Harbor. Living here, I knew the best beaches to go to, and when each surrounding town was having an auction or “concert on the green”. My folks especially enjoyed these. It was always an intimate, concentrated, quality time together and that was what mattered the most.

Over the years, my husband and I have worked on this house together making it our home. Where we once before rented or lived in military base housing, we were never permitted to so much as change the color of the walls or add a nail for a picture. We have customized this home to reflect our hobbies and talents. I have my paintings hanging in every room.

The children have all grown up and gone to live their own lives now. My husband and I now bring the comforters into the living room to sit and relax and wait. One by one the calls come in. Alabama checks in, followed by New York. A call beeps in and we say “Good-by “ to Connecticut and continue talking with Virginia. Bucksport calls in to tell us we have been on the phone all night and our answering machine is full. Levant calls a few minutes later. There will be a lull for three hours, so I call my parents to ask them when would they like to come “up country“ again? After our conversation, I pick up a book and begin reading. When the phone rings again, a sweet voice on the other end of the line says, ”Hello Grandma”, and I am talking to Arizona.

It will be shortly after midnight by now, and I look at my husband all wrapped up in his comforter sitting in his favorite chair and I say, “Looking back, I would not have changed a thing.” He is too tired to respond, but the smile across his face tells me he is listening and agrees.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

WEEK 10 Isearch ‘Answer‘ (11-6-2009) Homework Assignment

Monday, October 19, 2009
WHY I’M WRITING

My Father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. My purpose here is to clarify my understanding of what I’m dealing with, in caring for him, and inspire others with similarly stricken family members.
This topic intrigues me because:
The disease seems to be affecting so many aging adults.
I have professionally provided care for Alzheimer’s afflicted residents in an assisted living environment.
I too, as an adult, want to know the warning signs that indicate onset of the disease.
Regarding my Father’s situation:
Is Alzheimer’s a normal aging process?
Is the disease gender driven?
Is the onset manageable, or even curable?
Is Alzheimer’s the same as dementia?
Am I predisposed as a family member?
Answering my questions can enhance:
My capabilities of caring for him when he visits?
What modifications of my home can better assist him?
What special needs he now has that I must be aware of?



Write a brief paragraph which overviews your answer. Then: One way to do this is to list your original questions and then list what you found as answers.

What is Alzheimer’s disease? Is Alzheimer’s the same as dementia?

Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia. It accounts for 60-70% of dementia. Alzheimer’s is a chronic, terminal disease that affects how the brain functions and processes information. It is a disorder that results in the loss of brain cells in humans. It is more than everyday forgetfulness, which is common as people age.

Since the brain is responsible for judgment, communication, behavior, thinking, reasoning, memory, and all bodily functions including, but not limited to: breathing, movement, walking, the 5 senses (touch, smell, hearing, sight, and taste) etc., all these areas will ultimately be affected as the disease progresses.

There are seven detailed stages of the disease as described by Barry Reisberg, M.D, clinical director of New York University School of Medicine’s Silberstein Aging and Dementia Research Center.

Fifteen years ago, I thought it only affected one’s memory. I have learned, it begins in the brain areas involved in memory. From there, it is a slow, steady decline to other areas of the brain as the disease progresses.


Who, when and how was Alzheimer’s disease discovered?

Dr. Alois Alzheimer discovered the disease in 1907 after performing an autopsy on a woman. He monitored and tracked her declining health for five years until her death. An
autopsy revealed dramatic shrinkage of her cortex, dead brain cells, and abnormal fatty deposits around the brain cells.

Back then, the average age expectancy in the United States was 50 years old. Today, Alzheimer’s affects most people in their 70’s and 80’s so, in 1907 it was considered a rare disease and dismissed. With people living longer, it is getting more attention. Today, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Today, the estimated average life expectancy for an average American is 79.6 years.


How many people have Alzheimer’s Disease?

Today, it is estimated between 2.4 to 4.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with having Alzheimer’s. An estimate of 50% being 85 years old and older, and 10% of these being over 65 years old. Every 70 seconds, someone is diagnosed with the disease. By 2050, 16 million Americans may in fact have this disease.


What are the warning signs of early onset?

Although we do not know what actually initiates the disease process, the damage to the brain begins 10 to 20 years before any problems are evident. Most symptoms begin after age 60.

There is no clearly defined line that separates the warning signs of Alzheimer’s from the normal aging process. However, when a person is no longer able to perform their normal, daily routine, that is the first sign something is wrong. The following check list is a guide. A doctor would need to evaluate an individual to determine if a person met the criteria for Alzheimer‘s:

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Memory loss
Difficulty performing familiar tasks
Problems with language
Disorientation to time and place
Poor or decreased judgment
Problems with abstract thinking
Misplacing things
Changes in mood or behavior
Changes in personality
Loss of initiative


Is Alzheimer’s Disease part of the normal aging process?

No, it is not a normal part of the aging process. While some symptoms of aging, side effects to medication, etc. may show some similarities, the extent of the debilitation having Alzheimer’s is significant.

Research has shown evidence that brain health is linked to heart health. Conditions that cause damage to the heart and blood vessels (diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol) seem to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health National Institute on Aging, clinical trials are currently being done to evaluate interventions such as cardiovascular treatments, antioxidants, immunization therapy, cognitive training, and physical activity in retarding, postponing, or preventing Alzheimer‘s.

This makes me wonder. My Dad was diagnosed three months after his stroke.


Is the disease gender driven?

Studies show more women than men are likely to get Alzheimer’s. Further study is needed to confirm if that is so because women typically live longer than men. My research to date suggests age; genetics, lifestyle factors, and head injury are significant factors to consider. My search continues for more data.

I did learn race is now a factor to be considered. African-Americans and Latinos in the United States have higher rates of vascular disease than Caucasians. They may be at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.


Is the onset manageable, or even curable?

I learned there are two types of onset. “Early-onset”, which affects people in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. Most people have “late-onset” and develop the disease after 60 years of age. Drugs and managing behavioral symptoms are used to manage the disease. The drugs do not reverse or change the disease process. They may only help maintain cognitive skills and treat behavioral problems for a few months to a few years. At this time, no cure is available.

My Dad was diagnosed “late-onset” in December 1999. He will be 91, November 19, 2009.

Researchers believe a healthy diet, family history, and exercise and keeping the mind active (such as crossword puzzles and games like Bingo), may help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.


Is there a cure?

There is currently no cure. Specific drugs are prescribed depending on the stage of the disease: mild to moderate Alzheimer’s and moderate to severe Alzheimer’s. Both cognitive and behavioral symptoms may be helped with both drug and non-drug treatments. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved several types of drugs to treat cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease: three cholinesterase inhibitors and Memantine (Namenda). The antioxidant, Vitamin E has also been shown to delay symptoms in Alzheimer‘s . Non-drug treatments include changes in environment to eliminate obstacles and challenges.

My Dad is slipping into this second stage.


Am I predisposed as a family member?

First, I want to state there are two types of onset to Alzheimer’s. I feel it important to explain both in order to fully understand each one specifically. Early-onset” and “late-onset” are the two forms.

Most cases of “early-onset” Alzheimer’s disease are caused by gene mutations. A parent may transfer these gene mutations to his/her child. Mutations in 3 genes have been identified as causing this form of Alzheimer‘s. Researchers have identified these mutations being in the APP, PSEN1, and PSEN2 genes.

This “early-onset” form of Alzheimer’s disease is inherited in an autonomic dominant pattern; meaning one copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient to cause the malady. A child only needs one affected parent to inherit the disease.

My Dad was diagnosed with “late-onset” Alzheimer’s. The causes of the “late-onset” form are still vague. This form does not clearly run in families, although some exceptions have been documented. It has been suggested; this form is probably related to variations in one or more genes in conjunction with life style and environmental factors.

Researchers have studied the APOE gene as a risk factor for this “late-onset” form. The presence of e4 allele, which is a variant of this gene, has been linked to increasing one’s risk of developing “late-onset” Alzheimer’s. The inheritance pattern of “late-onset” Alzheimer’s is questionable. If an individual inherits one copy of the APOE e4 allele, they will have an increased chance of developing the disease. They will be at an even greater risk if they inherit two copies. Again, I state, I am talking about the risk of inheriting the disease, not the disease itself. It is also important to note, not all people with Alzheimer’s Disease have the e4 allele risk factor, and not all people with the e4 allele risk factor will develop the disease. However, about 40% of all people who develop “late-onset” Alzheimer’s carry this gene.

In 2007, scientists discovered another possible risk factor gene, SORL1. Genetic research studies are being conducted to look for more.

Until I test out for the disease, I must conclude, my answer to this question to be “possibly”.


How can I be better prepared for my Dad when he visits?

Specific areas I will be addressing include: focusing on dignity, privacy, and respect, setting up a daily schedule/routine, setting realistic expectations for both myself and my Dad so his visit will be enjoyable, planning nutritious meals that are easy for him to eat and digest, bathing/toileting accommodations as my Dad can no longer climb stairs (balance and muscle tone), environment, entertainment, exercise, safety, adequate rest, comfort, and meeting his over all needs emotionally and physically. There will be modifications to our home especially to his room and the stairs to prevent falls. I will be making adjustments to some of his clothing as buttoning, zippers, etc. are becoming more difficult to do. Specifics will be detailed in the Isearch paper.

Since this time last year, my Dad has lost total sight in one eye so depth perception is a concern now. His hearing is now marginal at best. Seating arrangements in the living room and dining areas will be rearranged to provide a more intimate setting and less straining to hear what is being said.

I will continue to update his “Book of Knowledge”. I started this many years ago when he had difficulty remembering the names of my children, their spouse, grand children etc. I began including photos of his trips to Maine to visit me as a reminder of where I lived now. They include his journey from Newton to Brewer, Maine, and all the stops and stories in between. It has become a document of our family tree as the family has grown to include his great-great grandchildren too.

This is a handwritten, daily entry logbook of every thing he does while visiting. Photographs taken during his trip are also included. I keep a copy for myself so we can discuss the details of his “Book” by phone when he returns to his home. I add photos by mail periodically as our family expands. It gives him mail to look forward to receiving when he is back at his home in Massachusetts.

Larger size items will replace smaller incidentals. Bathroom sink handles have been replaced to a right/left lever style (no turning knobs). A temperature gauge will be set into the sink and tub (sensation for temperature: hot/cold is now lost).

As I normally do, I will consult with my Mom as to any changes in medications (amounts/dispersements), food preferences, sleep patterns, likes/dislikes, clothing etc.


What will I do with the new information I learned?

Since life style factors may contribute to an increased risk in developing the disease, I will definitely take the advice given in much of the literature I read. Staying healthy includes: eating a nutritious diet, exercise, social interaction, and mental stimulation.
Since, it has been suggested heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity (all of which run in my family) may also contribute as risk factors, I will gladly take that advice too.

I would consider participation in clinical studies for the purpose of furthering research that may lead to the cure of Alzheimer’s disease.

Ten years has made a huge difference in the information now available and the research that has been done.


What are the risk factors?

Risk factors include: age, family history (including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes), genetics (the APOE 4 gene and the SORL 1 gene just discovered in 2007), head injury, poor health habits (high fat content diets), obesity, and certain life styles, inadequate exercise, smoking, drinking, lack of social interaction, and lack of mental stimulation. At this point in my Isearch, gender has not been discussed in depth nor noted as a significant risk factor. Time and more research will tell. Isearch paper will expand in this area.


************************************************************************
John,

This may not be as brief as I (or you) had hoped it to be, but I learned too much to keep it to myself.

Friday, November 6, 2009

WEEK 10 (11-4-2009) Isearch ‘search’

When I realized I would be doing a paper, which would ask questions, then find and deliver answers, I was determined to begin my search on Alzheimer’s Disease. I first learned about Alzheimer’s 14 years ago, when my Father was diagnosed. Fortunately, today, there is a lot more information available about the disease itself and its treatment than there was back then. To my disappointment, however, there is still no cure.

I began my search on the Internet using “Google“. I typed in “Alzheimer’s Disease”. It seemed at the time, to be the fastest way to get information from the clinics and hospitals that I thought could offer the most information. I found 9,610,000 hits. I thought for sure one of these would contain the cure; I just needed to find the correct site and share my findings with my family. I am still searching.

The hospitals and clinics, provided a wealth of information regarding the actual disease process, what it is, what it does to the body, and offered treatment suggestions. The graphics and a videos were as also enlightening and I noted so in my annotated bibliography. I learned ever so much about the brain including how Alzheimer‘s disrupts the information going into and leaving the brain. It can and will eventually disrupt a person’s normal daily routine. Ultimately, they may not be able to care for themselves.

Detailed information was helpful in understanding the stages of the disease and proper care towards individuals with the disease. It also explained evaluating behavior, and methods of responding to behavioral situations. It has helped me understand why my Dad may say or do certain things. I will no longer feel I am a poor hostess if he seems disinterested in going places with me while he is visiting. Exhaustion and anxiety are part of the disease process.

The hospital web sites and caregiver links alerted me to other factors. One such concern was swallowing. I never thought of that. I learned not only “what to do” and what not to do but why when taking care of someone in the later stages of the disease. I look forward to cooking my Dad’s favorite meals while he stays with us. One more detail to pay attention to.

I was surprised to find several websites geared to young children addressing Alzheimer’s. This would make sense, there are all kinds of children of Alzheimer’s parents out there too. Not all of us children are adults ourselves.

Meanwhile, “Google” led me to many organizations (some local), blogs, clinical studies,
research and articles focusing on Alzheimer‘s in one way or another. These provided information on the risks of getting the disease, statistics, testing and ethics. I learned about the gene APOE e4, a typical sign of the disease. I am reading further to see the “chance” of inheriting the disease. Now that the factors of “early” or “later” onset have come into the picture. I no sooner get close to an answer, and 10 more variables surface.
So, I will continue my search today.

I followed the links for “caregiver” in particular. It has proven to be my greatest source for acquiring information. I have kept those web sites and addresses in a log by date accessed.

Being skeptical, however, I followed up to check the authenticity of the places and individuals providing the information and running these sites. Such is noted in my annotated bibliography.

I just read an article (online) where Dr. Daniel Alkon, science director of the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute, in Morgantown WV, states in 12-18 months, a skin test may be available for early detection of the disease. Early detection could encourage earlier intervention. I am following that now to see if it may be a reliable method to test for the disease, should I decide I want to do that myself someday.

I read an article in my local paper months back about this disease, written by Carol Higgins. I kept the article knowing someday I might want to refer to it again. I contacted the writer and spoke with her staff. I went to the physical location of the organization, the Eastern Agency On Aging in Bangor, and selected several pamphlets from their waiting room too. These pamphlets led to more contacts and phone calls. I learned about a program at the local high school.

Periodically, Bangor High School Adult Education provides a 6-week module discussing Alzheimer’s disease, a great resource for caregivers and family members. Since, the classes were on the same night as when I teach Art there, my conversations with Kristie Minor from West Gate Manor, the facilitator of the Caregiver program, were by phone.

Jody McKenna took most of my calls directed at trying to reach Ms. Minor at West Gate Manor. She is a physical therapist there. I explained my mission. She said she would be giving a class at the High School on September 30 called, “ Keeping Everyone Safe and Moving”. I now had another key word to “Google”: Alzheimer’s Disease safety. That net another 2,310,000 hits.

These “safety” links were a great find. They alerted me to safety issues that I could address in preparing for my Dad’s upcoming visits. I have since shared a few with my Mom. These “safety” links provided insight into the mind of one with Alzheimer’s and offered suggestions and “redirection” methods.

Janet ( I need to ask her last name), a librarian at EMCC, was a tremendous help. She gave me a pamphlet called “Nursing Resources” to access/locate books, online journals, and print journals. I took the titles given there, most could be viewed online in some form. Because of my interest in Biology and the sciences, I wanted technical information and clinical studies regarding Alzheimer’s. Again, trying to understand why some do and other’s do not get this disease. I was trying to determine if the disease was a normal part of the aging process. It is not, I discovered.

Lots of reading. Some information I will use in my Isearch paper, other information is too technical for this paper, as it was geared to nurses and staff. Still, I read it because I wanted to know…everything about Alzheimer’s.

When I was told by staff at the Eastern Agency On Aging, that the local radio station, MPBN, aired a program this year about Alzheimer’s, I contacted them. I got the online website. It noted 22 programs. I still have a lot of them to cover. Most were on caring for the caregiver.

I checked the local phone book to seek out local Alzheimer’s support groups, assisted living facilities, and contacted the administrators there. Several sent me information by mail. Staff there were helpful when I stated my mission. I was given names to follow up with for additional questions I might have: Angela Lufkin, Gentiva Home Health; Mark Stewart of Beacon Hospice. Ms. Lufkin and Mr Stewart never returned my calls.

Online information, websites, the library, local agencies, pamphlets, newspapers, books, radio station and personal referrals have been productive. I continue my Isearch, answering so many of my original questions, yet proposing so many more.