Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nampa woman shares her journey through Alzheimer's

A few years ago, Nampa resident Cindy Jacklich began drawing blanks. People became irked when she failed to follow through on what she told them she would do. It took her a long time to formulate answers to questions.

In time, her behavioral gaffes and lapses of memory became more common and more noticeable to her friends and family. “When I was playing cards, they’d laugh at me because they thought I was being funny,” Jacklich said.

Finally, a visit to the doctor revealed a disturbing diagnosis: early-onset Alzheimer’s dementia.
She was just 55 years old.

Jacklich was horrified. She never saw this coming. Alzheimer’s didn’t run in her family, and she didn’t think she was old enough to get Alzheimer’s.

To cope, Jacklich began writing her thoughts and feelings in poem form. Then, she created a CD of her writings — an audio diary to chronicle her medical journey while she was still able.

“I then realized I could use my writings to benefit other Alzheimer’s victims and help my family with my own medical cost,” she said. Thirty percent of the $20 donation for the CD, titled “My Feelings & Thoughts: Alzheimer’s Dementia,” goes directly to the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Boise. The remainder will go towards the cost of creating the CD and to help pay for her own medical care.

The poems describe the illness laying siege to her memories. She talks about the frustration of trying to express her thoughts and the awkwardness she feels when people stare at her in bewilderment. Her poems reveal her terror of being lost in a world of Alzheimer’s, knowing that someday she will not recognize loved ones, unable to show her love.

As the disease progresses, Jacklich finds herself hardly able to talk some days. At restaurants, people stare at her, she says.

On her CD, the words somehow flow freely. But in person, speaking is a slow and laborious process.

Confusion comes quickly: At a recent photo shoot at the Idaho Press-Tribune, Jacklich holds out her audio diary to the photographer. “Is this yours?” she asked with uncertainty. She is still, her husband Tony said, in the early phases of the disease.

Writing has helped Jacklich reclaim her spirit, if not her memories. The poems depict Jacklich at first hopeless, then hopeful, as she realizes the disease has not yet defeated her.

“This is a good experience for me because I’m learning how other people may feel that have gone through this,” Jacklich said.“I have a good attitude. I feel I’m going to be OK no matter what.” Local association provides trained support, guidanceTREASURE VALLEY — By the year 2025 in Idaho, Alzheimer’s disease will increase by 100 percent, according to Suzette Albers-Tunnell, executive director of the Boise-based Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Idaho.

Alzheimer’s — a progressive and fatal brain disease — will soon be affecting more people than ever. But there is help for those who suffer from the illness and their loved ones as well.

The local association teaches people how the illness deteriorates both the mind and the body. Providing services and support to individuals, caregivers and families, the association serves 35 counties, including Canyon and Ada, as well Ontario and Baker City, Ore.

“People call us from all over the state and we give them information and referrals,” Albers-Tunnell said. “People sometimes call in and they are traumatized, they don’t know what to do.”

Albers-Tunnell said many people don’t know how to deal with the specific behaviors that people with Alzheimer’s disease have.

“It’s different from regular dementia,” she said. “Sometimes they can become violent. You have to approach them differently.”

Trained facilitators can provide individuals with free information about what Alzheimer’s is and what to expect as the illness progresses. Caregivers can attend training workshops, and information on local support groups and upcoming fundraising events are available by calling or by going to the Web site.

The association also provides free orientation and care consultations, offers rural outreach and runs a safe return program to alert law enforcement and Alzheimer’s associations nationwide when a local patient wanders.

Overall, Albers-Tunnell sends a message of understanding, awareness and encouragement. “They do have moments of clarity. They know when someone is taking care of them who is good and kind and loving,” she said. “We see them as a full and loving person.”

Source: http://www.idahopress.com/news/?id=3999


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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