My hubby has Alzheimer's

By Sheryl Theessen

I wish I had known in 2003 when I had my breast implants removed about a development that just came out of the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

Perhaps it would have better prepared me for what was to come.

A proposal was put forth at the Toronto conference in July to add a new tool to the checklist used to determine a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

This proposal suggests a diagnosis be created, termed mild behavioural impairment (MBI), that recognizes changes preceding the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Mild cognitive impairment is used when people exhibit signs of cognitive problems, but who are otherwise able to lead a normal life.

Many people diagnosed with MCI do not develop Alzheimer’s or any other dementia, even decades later.

This new recommendation is seeking to measure sudden changes in behaviour, such as displays of unaccountable anger or radical swings in moods, depression, a lack of interest in activities that used to be important.

These changes may be abrupt or out of character, with no known cause.

It’s suggested that these behavioural issues could be the first indicator of changes in the brain that may lead to Alzheimer’s, changes that become apparent years before cognitive problems arise.

I now see my husband’s reaction when I had my implants removed as the big red flag that heralded what was coming.

My implants had been in place since 1979 and there had been a problem with a partial rupture in one since the late 1980s.

As long as the leaking silicone was being contained by the scar capsule around the implant, it was felt that this implant could be left in place.

In 2003, it was discovered that the leaked silicone had escaped that scar capsule and into breast tissue. The decision was made, by my doctors, to remove not just the damaged implant, but due to their age, both of them, plus the invaded breast tissue.

I chose not to have the implants replaced.

My husband did not take this decision well. He felt he had been victimized by my decision to live with the body I had been given. He never forgave me for “doing this to him” and could not seem to comprehend my unwillingness to undergo yet another surgery.

His attitude was a complete surprise. I would never have guessed he would react in such an unloving manner about a matter that was health, not vanity, related.

There were other changes in his behaviour. He lost interest in activities that had played a prominent role in his life. He no longer wished to socialize and chose instead to sit in front of the TV.

Then, came his raging about other drivers who were “out to get him.” Every time he came home there had been another incident.

By 2008, cognitive changes were apparent. In 2010, he was diagnosed with MCI and in 2011 with Alzheimer’s disease.

So I am in agreement that behavioural issues may be a precursor to a later diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

If a protocol can be developed to help define behavioural changes, I am all for it. Let there be the creation of a new diagnostic tool to measure these behavioural changes.

It’s being suggested that those who suffer from mild behavioural impairment as well as mild cognitive impairment more quickly decline to develop Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

Those of us who have lived with Alzheimer’s know that once the diagnosis is made, nothing can be done to alter what is coming.

If behavioural issues can be identified in the early stages of the illness, before any other changes are apparent, there is more information to work with.

That information might lead to a treatment to stop this illness in its infancy, before the damage to the brain cannot be undone.

For more information, Google the New York Times headline, Personality change may be early sign of dementia, experts say.

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