The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 5.5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer type dementia in
the United States. This makes up approximately 70% of all dementias. It also reported that 15.9 million
Americans provided 18.2 billion hours of unpaid assistance to family and friends with Alzheimer’s and
other dementias in 2016. It comes as no surprise that almost daily I encounter a patient who shares
their story about caring for a loved one with dementia. This is my story.
In 2006, the very weekend that I graduated with my masters in nursing, my dad was diagnosed with
dementia. My mom was his primary caregiver until he passed in 2012. Losing a parent is never easy.
The person charged with your care and protection is no longer there. As I grieved the loss of my dad, it
became apparent that I was losing my mom to dementia as well. After my dad’s passing, we started to
notice a cognitive decline in my mom. Those of you that have family or friend with dementia are
familiar with this subtle progression, that at first you try to deny, but then have to admit that someone
you love is gradually being stolen away from you.
The transition for a parent to go from caretaker to being the one requiring care is often a difficult one
for both the parent and the child. For me, this adjustment coincided with my daughter’s departure out
of the house for college. It was overwhelming trying to balance the emotions of encouraging one
generation to gain independence while slowly reducing the independence of another. It was a struggle
to gain the courage to confront my mom with her disease. Then even after difficult discussions were
had, they soon evaporated as the result of the disease and had to be repeated. The weight of having a
loved one with dementia was almost unbearable.
I have sat with many patients in my office, following their annual exams, sharing our struggle with how
to best manage our loved ones’ care. Some moved loved ones into their home to care for them, others,
like me, hired home health aides in an attempt to keep them out of facilities. My experience was that
this worked for a while but as the disease progressed, my mom’s social isolation grew. Boredom is an
environment in which cognitive decline thrives. This past summer my sister and I had to face the reality
that Mom’s condition was quickly deteriorating and a change needed to be made.
The decision to move my mom out of the only home we have ever known was the most agonizing
decision that my sister and I have ever had to make. In August, we starting looking for assisted living
care facilities with memory care units. I am happy to say that our tale comes with a happy ending. On
September 23 rd we moved my mom into a facility which allowed her to bring not only own furniture but
her beloved cat, Lucy, as well. Initially she was homesick and spoke only of going home. As time has
passed, she has become content and happy in her new home. With better nutrition and socialization
she is thriving. I look forward to visits and always take fresh flowers which she loves.
All of our stories are different. Each of us will navigate through these decisions differently but we all
have love in our hearts. I still mourn for the loss of the mom that I once knew but now I am joyful as I
get acquainted with the person she is now. During my last trip to visit we took her to a restaurant/bar
near her facility. When our meal was delayed we were delighted when she joined us in a game of pool!
I wrote this for Father’s Day 2010—but I think you’ll still find it relevant!
Happy Father’s Day
More than any person in my life—what I stand for, what I believe in and what I hope to pass on–has been shaped by my father.
Last month I wrote about my mom, one of the most compassionate, kind and hard-working and devoted women I’ve ever known. Today, with Father’s Day fast approaching, I hope you’ll indulge me as I write about my dad—a man for whom my love and admiration still grows–and the importance of fatherhood.
I do not write as an authority on fatherhood. Instead I write as someone who’s had a privileged childhood—not one of material wealth but a childhood filled with challenges guided by the most trustworthy parents a boy could have.
I can speak with authority about two things—the legacy of my dad and what I’ve observed about the current state of fathers in our culture.
My Father and his Legacy
My dad, Israel, was born over a century ago in Opatów, Poland on September 6, 1908. Opatów or “Apt” was settled in the 15h century as a small commercial town in southern Poland. Like many Polish towns of the early 20th century it had a rich rabbinic history and more than its share of poverty. Continue reading “Father’s Day – My Dad and his Legacy”
We received the following letter and wanted to share it with our readers.
Hi Dr. Wortman,
Thank you for getting back to me so quickly! The answers you provided make a lot sense to me and I ‘m glad to know that you agree that it is reasonable to start with the polyp removal and then see how things go.
When I called your office a couple of days ago, I had already tried several other offices just wanting an answer to the question about the suction morcellators and if was standard procedure in the removal polyps. Every other office (called 3) wouldn’t talk to me–wouldn’t even have a nurse call me back. They wanted me to send over my file including lab work, ultrasound pictures etc. and make an appointment to come and meet with them. Fine except I really just wanted to know if their office used the morcellator or something else to remove polyps. I asked the same question to the very nice lady who answers your phone and she told me to hold for a moment, then you got on the line! Wow! I feel so lucky and blessed to have found you! I can’t thank you enough for being such a decent human being and so generous with your time and talents! Continue reading “Warmest Regards from Colorado – A Letter”
Have you ever wondered why dentists offer sedation – Sedation Dentistry has been around for a long time – but gynecologists don’t? It doesn’t make sense does it?
Modern gynecology offers many innovative diagnostic tests and treatments in an office based setting.
Here’s a short list of some of the more commonly performed ones: Continue reading “Sedation Gynecology – Did You Know About It?”
On this Thanksgiving remember that happiness is the difference between our reality and our expectations.
Fifteen years ago I traveled with a team of physicians that had been invited to address some health care needs in Kenya. After a few days attending events to showcase Kenyan schools, culture and its health care system I asked a cabdriver to allow me to spend the day with him and take me to Kenya’s less glamorous side—the one’s that aren’t showcased by the Ministry of Tourism and Health.
At the time Kenya had a horrific HIV/AIDs epidemic that had been covered by several national news outlets including 60 Minutes. I walked into an “otherworldly” Nairobi and Kisumu where coffins were sold in the market place and –all too often—in the streets. Many coffins were no more than 3 feet long and served as a reminder of the innocent children that fell victim to the AIDs epidemic. Continue reading “Thanksgiving 2015”