Sharon Osbourne hit the headlines this week telling of her fear of dying from Alzheimer’s disease, the illness that caused her father’s death.
Sharon underwent a DNA test which revealed she carries two of the four genes responsible for developing the illness.
She went on to say that it was soul-destroying to watch someone you love suffer with this affliction and how she feels helpless in trying to prevent herself from developing the disease.
There are many theories as to how one can stave off getting Alzheimer’s, they include doing more puzzles to keep the brain sharp, taking regular exercise, not having amalgam fillings put into your teeth and downing copious amounts of cod liver oil.
I watched both my parents suffer with Alzheimer’s, both put up a valiant fight but both lost to this monster.
Just days ago I came across an old exercise book belonging to my father, flicking through the pages I saw the heart-breaking evidence of my dad’s fight as he attempted to do battle with the demon that was slowly devouring his brain. The book contained page after page of dad’s handwriting. My father was never told he had Alzheimer’s. He was pleasantly confused by the time I was given his diagnosis, I didn’t share with him his fate. He had recently watched my beloved mother die from it and I knew the thought of losing his faculties terrified him.
Dad had always been determined to keep his brain and body in top condition. He had lifted weights every morning until he was in his eighties; he was a health food fan, constantly trying out new supplements, he ingested reservoirs of cod liver oil over the years. As far back as I can remember, my father always looked after himself which resulted in him rarely having to visit a doctor; but the careful maintenance of his health hadn’t been enough to stop the dementia demon sneaking into his brain.
The book I found belonging to my father contained passages from health books and the Bible which he had copied out by hand. He had practised writing the same sentences repeatedly beneath each other much like in olden days when naughty pupils would have been given lines to write in school.
At the beginning of the book his handwriting was excellent but as the pages went on his writing became erratic until the words became nothing but an indecipherable scribble as he continued to try and keep his ability to write going.
I cried with pain and pride looking at this evidence of how my brave father had tried to privately to take this disease on and battle it with diligence each day without even knowing what it was he was fighting.
His battle was fruitless. In the end the illness made sure he had nothing left to fight with, by the time it had finished with him he couldn’t speak, walk, or do anything for himself, its final act of cruelty was to prevent him from swallowing, causing him to slowly starve to death. Holding my dying father in my arms for the last time was like cradling a skeleton. Alzheimer’s left my father’s body a dried out husk.
My mother had been slightly more fortunate in that pneumonia killed her before dementia could take its full devastating course. My father’s good physical health meant this brain disease got to play its cruel games with him for much longer.
A new test has been launched online this week at www.foodforthebrain.org. for those between the ages of 50-70. It’s a 20 minute quiz designed to determine if you are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The test contains questions about diet and lifestyle to assess a person’s most likely risk factors and the kind of specific changes they need to make to try to reduce those risks.
Personally, with two parents having had the disease I wouldn’t be willing to take any test available at the present moment to determine the likelihood of me developing dementia. There are currently no drugs to cure Alzheimer’s, nor are there any in the pipeline.
Armed with this new knowledge about her possible future health Sharon Osbourne will most likely now panic each time she forgets what she came into a room for, thinking it’s the beginning of dementia.
I see no benefit from learning that I may at some time in the future develop a condition that there is no cure for. My belief is; if trouble is asleep, don’t go setting the alarm!