Me, My Father and The Alzheimer's
I figured the best way to track and share the results of my nutritional adventures with my father and his Alzheimer's was to create a journal here. My plan is to update this once a week even if nothing is happening. Please feel free to use this as a venue for anything you want to ask or say about Alzheimer's. This is very much an n=1 with my father's quality of life as top priority.
My father is 93 years old. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's by the local memory clinic in Jan 2011 at 90. I took him to see his GP a few months earlier when we'd been talking about my brother and he had no idea who we meant. I've been the one to take him to all of his appointments etc since the beginning, though I've only taken 24/7 responsibility since Dec 2011 when my mother died (brain haemorrhage).
Up until 2008, when he was 88, my father was fit and healthy and really the poster boy for a fulfilling retirement. He tried scuba for the first time at 75, achieved his glider pilot's silver C at 80 and was teaching himself German and Astronomy through his 80s. He had a pacemaker fitted at 84 because his heart rate dropped dangerously low. He noticed because he couldn't quite manage his usual set of push-ups in the morning! Since then his heart health has been fine and he continued to maintain the garden and do all the cooking as well as most of the shopping.
In 1988 he suffered a detached retina while driving – fortunately in this country – and that was the end of my parents' twice-yearly jaunts across Europe with their caravan. It was also, imo, the start of things going downhill. My mother took over the driving and by necessity the shopping and there were several attempts to fix the retina but his vision has remained very bad in that eye. He did eventually try driving again, but his confidence was shot and he didn't stick with it.
Until my mother died, they managed okay between them, but my father was incapable of managing on his own, so I moved in to look after him and over the following 12 months, he gradually deteriorated. I was concentrated on giving him the best quality of life I could for what appeared to be his last few years and was resigned to the expected progression of the disease. He responded well to the medication - Exelon/rivastigmine - (he had forgotten how to write his signature, but with the medication, it came back) but the deterioration continued.
So, in October 2012 I started to concentrate on my own health and to focus on dropping the excess weight I'd accumulated in feeding him the foods he enjoyed and could eat with his few non-opposed molars. It means he finds chewing difficult as he uses his incisors to chomp and so meat often ends up a tangled mass of fibres that he can't swallow. I was feeding him toast and sandwiches and lots of biscuits as he'd been quite frail when I moved in. To boost my own motivation I bought myself some of the latest low carb books, as I have been low carbing off and on since reading Atkins 10 years ago. The books included Wheat Belly by William Davis and I read about the problems wheat can cause with digestion and how B12 deficiency can mimic or may even be a factor in Alzheimer's. Volek and Phinney said the same thing in the Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. Huh.
My parents have always been very much meat and veg people. They didn't do sauces and my father grew a lot of his own fruit and veg, so I grew up on belly pork and home-made shepherds pie, lancashire hotpot, roast joints followed by bubble and squeak, all cooked by my father. For 8 years it was most often my job to go and fetch the milk from the farm down the road. If I got there early in the milking it was still warm. My father's preference for breakfast was the broth he kept on the go from all the left-overs and cooking juices, usually with a slice of brown bread cubed and added to the bowl. Dessert was rare but there was always ice cream in the freezer for hot days, though biscuits were occasional, crisps a very rare treat and never kept in the house, and sweets had to be bought from pocket money. If we were hungry between meals there was bread and always cheese in the fridge and my father made his own clotted cream from the top of the raw milk. I'm only now aware of how close to primal my parents lived, mostly because whole foods bought in bulk or grown were cheaper than processed 'treats'. Before I was born, in a previous house, they had also had their own hens.