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John Manke is an active former Bay View resident who is involved in numerous neighborhood organizations, including the Bay View Historical Society, the Humboldt Park Fourth of July Association and the Shore Shore Farmers Market. He believes Bay View has a fine tradition in its past that we do not want to lose in the future.

Living with Alzheimer's Disease

Many people today have relatives or friends who have Alzheimer's disease or senile dementia. This disease is one of the saddests things to occur to a person. A loving intelligent person turns into a shell of a human unable to care for themselves or to recognize friends and relatives.

I can remember this happening to my aunt and uncle. Both people used to be very knowledgeable, caring and loving people. Once they were very good at sheepshead, then they could no longer recognize what this card game was. Near the end, when we would take my aunt to church special services, we would ask her if she knew who I was. She could no longer remember who I was and called me a fat person who she knew but did not know my name. Before my uncle was placed in a nursing home for Alzheimer's disease, he used to take a walk around the block. He sometime would get lost, but we always know which route he took. He would always look out the front door looking for his car, which had been sold a while ago. He aways had a smile on his face. He loved ice cream and candy very much. When he was younger, he used to play a banjo. His love for music stayed with him until the end of his life. One time while my aunt was in the nursing home, she spoke to me in German intead of English. It turned out that they had given her the wrong amount of medicine and it caused her to be delusional. I can remember how each one of them went down this path to the end. You could only rejoice when it was over, because they no longer were suffering.

When visiting them at the nursing home, I noticed that one method of therapy was old time movies on television. Another thing that seemed to help was to listen to church music and to sing along with it. While they were in the early stages, they could be taken out to travel. They were given the chance to see their old home and neighborhood. We finished the trip with a visit to get an ice cream for them. My aunt always liked two cherries on her sundae. Candy and cookies were always appreciated. When we celebrated their birthdays with a cake and ice cream and their family all there, they did not recognize everybody. She used to call me by my dad's name, because I resembled him. They always maintained some of their deep past memories, but rarely  recent ones. When they were irritated for any reason, they could get mean and aggresive. Most of the time they liked to doze off in their wheel chair.

Someday visit a nursing home and see what a senile dementia/alzheimer ward is like. Someday the person you see in a wheel chair could be you. Think of what your children will do when this happens. When they are no longer able to help you at home, then you must be placed in a nursing home to get proper care. How you treat your parents could be how your children will treat you when your time comes. Read up on the disease and learn about it. It creeps up on you like a thief in the night. You first start becoming forgetful, although that is normal in all aging. You then start doing things and don't remember why you were doing them and drop what you are doing. You go to the store and can't remember why. You go out for a ride and then you lose your way home in your own neighborhood. Old items begin to look like new items to you. Familiar radio and television shows are still in your memory. You can remember what you did several years ago, but don't remember what you were doing five minutes ago. You can see a movie or TV show over and over again as though it was the first time you saw it. A cloud develops over you, and memories of your family begin to fade. You no longer recognize people. You start getting angry over the littlest things in life. You forget how to get dressed and care for yourself. Your self esteem is gone. Then you start going into a shell like appearance and seem to forget about life in general. Remember, this could be your future. Please respect people taking care of others with this disease. This is a very difficult job and very nerve racking. As you see these people now, know that one day you could be there in their place.

Live each day as a gift of the Lord, and you will appreciate it. Give thanks that you are not in this position now. Someday, you could be the person in the wheel chair in the dementia ward of the nursing home. Live your faith and pray. Now is the time to prepare for the day when you can no longer take care of yourself. Nobody knows the day of their passing. Death could come like a thief in the night or you could suffer for a long period of time. Nobody knows what the future holds for them. 

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