How to Explain Alzheimer’s Disease to a Spouse?


Judy Siegel-Itzkovich

 My Dad is 85 years old and my Mom is 84. He was diagnosed a year ago with Alzheimer’s disease. I would like to know what I can do to make my Mom understand that Dad cannot control his illness by himself.

I would like to get to know more about Alzheimer’s so that I can be “hands on.” I have come to see my children as well as my parents, but my visa is for three months at a time, which is costly – hence, the urgency.

My children and I want to purchase him a greenhouse as a diversion from him wondering off on long walks and getting lost repeatedly. Is this a positive approach? He enjoys planting peppers and chili. His wandering off really has a negative effect on my Mom. C.D., Columbus, Ohio.

Leah Abramowitz, a veteran coordinator of the Institute of Studies in Aging at Melabev, comments. Melabev, based in Jerusalem, has been a leader in the field of care of the elderly for over 39 years. It is Israel’s pioneer service provider caring for those plagued by, and suffering from, Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias and offers appropriate services to their entire support system, including 10 day care centers and memory. Melabev also provides many supportive services for family caregivers, enabling them to continue with the task of caregiving at home.

I’d like to know if your father been diagnosed by a doctor and, if so, did he explain the situation to your mother?

It’s very difficult for the spouses of people with dementia. They don’t always realize that their spouse’s behavior is not controllable, so they may make unreasonable demands on them. Some people consult an expert or read a book on the subject. I run several support groups (some even in English) at Yad Sarah in Jerusalem for the wives of Alzheimer’s, and they find it of great help. We meet every two weeks so they can talk about their frustrations and feelings. One supports the other. I’m also able to talk to families on on-on-one basis to discuss the situation.
Various countries offer day-care centers for Alzheimer’s patients, If the place where your parents live have such a program, he may be suitable. The various health maintenance organizations can help patients with dementia.

Gardening is a wonderful activity for people with dementia, and the idea of a greenhouse is excellent. Listening to music is also very beneficial, and exercises are highly recommended on a steady basis.

What is the best type of schoolbag for a girl going to first grade? There are many cheap ones and many expensive ones, but I think the more expensive ones are like that because they have movie or cartoon characters on them. Please give me some guidance. T.P., Queens, New York

Ayelet Keller, director of the physiotherapy service at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel, replies:

The price of a school bag (backpack) is not necessarily the way to choose what is best for the child. Choosing the right backpack and adjusting it to the dimensions of the child is very important for the health of the back, shoulders and neck.

The backpack should have wide, padded shoulder straps and be adjustable with a buckle. It should have padding in the back area and also contain a number of divisions that allow for the proper weight distribution of the books, notebooks and writing tools.

When adjusting the bag for carrying, make sure that the length of the shoulder straps is equal and allow symmetrical distribution of the weight load. The main weight of the bag should be located opposite the center of the back rather than the pelvis.

So your child does not carry too much every day to school, it is recommended that she carry only those books and equipment needed for one day only. The weight of a full bag should not exceed 15% of the child’s weight. Tell your child that she must tell you if she feels back or shoulder pain while carrying the backpack.

Some children like school bags that have wheels and are pulled behind them. These weigh more and are not suitable for climbing stairs; they also require great effort in lifting and encourage asymmetrical movement by the back and hands. Therefore, I recommend that they be pulled for a while by the right hand and then by the left hand. It is also important that the backpack has light reflectors to ensure road safety.

Do you have a recommendation for a natural or other treatment for atrial fibrillation to replace Carvedilol and a treatment to replace Eliquis as an anticoagulant? I am 78 and struggle with almost every negative result on the list for Carvidelol, especially dizziness, exhaustion, moments when I feel my heart “stops” and I swoon and extreme muscle weakness and stiffness and don´t feel good with Eliquis. S.M. via email

Prof. Michael Glikson, director of the Jesselson Integrated Heart Center at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, a specialist in the electrophysiology of the heart, and immediate past president of the Israel Heart Society replies:

There are at least three alternatives to Eliquis. One of them should work.
The same is true regarding Carvedilol; there are other beta blockers as well as non-beta-blockers that can substitute Carvedilol. For individual recommendations, you must consult your cardiologist.

I am a 73-year-old woman. In addition to having age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in my eyes, I also have Sjogren’s disease and type-2 diabetes controlled by diet only. Does the supplement Lutien really help for AMD? And is there anything l can do to prevent this condition from getting worse? Jenny, via email

Prof. Anat Loewenstein, chairman of the ophthalmology department at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, answers:

The supplements you may need depend on the situation in which your macular degeneration is. Therefore, it is not possible to give a recommendation via email. You must consult your retina doctor.

In “dry” AMD, with very specific characteristics on clinical examination, supplementation with Vitamin C, Vitamin E, zinc and Lutein may lower the risk of developing advanced disease. This is not the case for other characteristics of the “dry” type of AMD, nor is this true when the disease is already the “wet” type. There is no evidence for the efficacy of lutein alone.

If you want an Israeli expert to answer your medical questions, write to Breaking Israel News health and science senior reporter Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at [email protected] with your initials, age, gender and place of residence and details of the medical condition, if any.

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