Alzheimer's: It's not the end of the world'
READING UP Alzheimer's patient Ruby Neal and her daughter, Peggy Brackin, look through information about Alzheimer's disease. Ruby says it's important to recognize the symptoms as early as you can. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star.
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
July 14, 2002
When Ruby Neal's daughter heard last fall that her mother was telling people all about her little boy and little girl, she realized something was wrong. Ruby's little boy and girl are both in their 50s.
Ruby is 82 years old a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. A retired nurse who loves to sew and work crossword puzzles, she was diagnosed in February with early-stage Alzheimer's disease.
She talks about her condition, to older people at her church and at Rush Senior Health Center.
In the beginning
Neal's daughter, Peggy Brackin of Pachuta, said signs of Alzheimer's had been surfacing for a while, but they went unrecognized.
She said her mother wanted someone to come light the furnace last September, but the house she has lived in for 40 years has central heat and air.
Ruby's symptoms may have started as early as 1996 when her husband, Prentiss, passed away. But whatever signs there were, Peggy said, family members assumed to be depression.
But when friends and family members told her about the little boy and girl, Peggy called her mother's doctor, who said to watch her closely.
Things got worse in February and Ruby was admitted to Riley Hospital, where she once worked. One day, she tried to leave the hospital because she thought her shift was over. Ruby doesn't remember the incident, but she does remember feeling afraid and anxious.
Now she is attacking the disease with drugs, knowledge, humor and faith in God. She has resumed her day-to-day routine. She no longer drives, but her memory is sharp enough to enjoy crossword puzzles again.
She teases her children, 59-year-old Peggy and 58-year-old Jerry, about being senior citizens. The little boy and the little girl don't mind.
Be on the lookout
Ruby is eager to talk about Alzheimer's because she wants people to recognize the symptoms.
Ruby plans to take part in the Alzheimer's Memory Walk on Oct. 5 at Bonita Lakes. Peggy is getting involved in a support group that meets the third Thursday of each month at Rush Senior Health Center.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's but there are drugs that can slow it down. Because it's a hereditary disease, Peggy said she knows she may have to face it one day herself.
KNOW THE SYMPTOMS:
Alzheimer's disease has three basic stages. It is difficult to identify a specific stage because they may overlap and not every patient will experience all symptoms.
Loss of memory about recent events
Confusion about places
Losing or misplacing things
Trouble handling money
Mood and/or personality changes
Taking more time with routine chore
Increasing memory loss and confusion
Problems recognizing close friends
Repetitive statements and/or movements
Restlessness in late afternoon and night
Occasional muscle twitches or jerks
Difficulty organizing thoughts
Being unable to find the right word
Trouble reading and writing numbers
Not willing to bathe or change clothes
Gaining, then losing weight
Seeing or hearing things that are not there
Needing full-time supervision
Inability to recognize family members
Inability to self in the mirror
Talking to reflection in mirror
Needing help to bathe, dress, eat or go to the bathroom
Groaning, screaming, grunting
Putting everything in mouth
Cannot communicate with words
Cannot control bowels
Seizures, swallowing difficulties, skin infections