Tuesday, June 30, 2009

ABC Primetime shows Texas family dealing with Alzheimer's; Nightline shows shocking Alzheimer's experiment with ordinary people

ABC Primetime (“Family Secrets”), on Tuesday June 30, aired a particularly painful segment about a middle aged couple in west Texas, recently remarried into second marriages, nearly driven to divorce by the husband’s mother with Alzheimer’s disease, whom she starts caring for five weeks after the marriage. The couple tries several arrangements, including building a separate small apartment house for the mother, but her need for attention causes resentment on the wife. She smokes, raising fire risks (as well as questions of causation). Eventually the husband is not able to care for her as much. Sometimes she is left alone, and sometimes her sister (herself recovering from breast cancer) cares for her. She wanders and drives when she is not allowed to. Adult protective services visits at least once. ABC filmed for over four years.

The story, by Cynthia McFadden, Robbie Gordon and Rashida Johnson is “Ultimate Love Triangle: Mother-in-Law's Alzheimer's Disease Strains Marriage: Stress of Caring for Aging Relative Pits Husband Against Wife, Sending Family Into Turmoil”, link here.

The ABC webpage has several supplements, including “The voices of Alzheimer’s caregivers”, “Puzzling out 10 Alzheimer’s myths” and “Send in your questions”.

Dr. Peter Whitehouse, at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, regards Alzheimer’s as a natural course of aging rather than a specific disease, but there is overwhelming information about plaques and vascular changes in the brain in many other media sources. The myths include the idea that the disease occurs only with age, or must accompany age. Alzheimer’s is almost certainly not caused by aluminum, vaccinations, or artificial sweeteners.

On ABC Nightline, Cynthia McFadden and the husband (“Blaine”) try an experiment simulating Alzheimer’s. The don dark glasses simulating cataracts and macular degeneration, hand numbing gloves, uncomfortable footware, and most of all “Bluetooth” earphones with schizophrenia-like noises. Neither subject can complete the tasks assigned in twelve minutes. The distraction and sensory distraction causes quick memory loss. This was a shocking experiment.

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