Carlen’s story is about a path that emerged in the darkest of hours. In other words, a path that was neither planned nor foreseen. It’s a story about the inner struggles and insights that emerged when he lead Martha and their children through a life-altering quandary. Diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at 50 was never part of anyone’s plan.
Suggested by a Protestant minister and friend, a search began. Martha and Carlen visited a Catholic nun and a monk in the hills and back roads of Kentucky. Scrambling for answers, Carlen devoured scores of medical and spiritual books; flew halfway around the world to Sydney and back. Carlen spent dozens of weekends at a nearby monastery; then landed all alone one week in Thomas Merton’s cabin.
Thinking of caregiver support we may not see the potential in meditation. Showing us by example, Carlen’s used mediation to ease the fears and confusion of Alzheimer’s. Starting early on the path of meditation allowed Carlen to use learned techniques as Martha’s disease progressed. Easier fears and confusion are critical to our caregiving and this is one potential solution. Listening to this episode may help you to reveal a path you didn’t realize was available.
Early Onset Alzheimer’s
Generally, Alzheimer’s effects those over the age of 65 and is most common in seniors over age 80. However, approximately 5% of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are diagnosed in their 40s and 50s. The warning signs of the disease are the same at any age. Martha went from a confident, independent woman to one who could no longer handle many of her normal tasks.
Finding support is important for both the person living with Alzheimer’s as well as their care partner. Additionally, learning all you can about the disease. Treating the early onset version of AD is the same as late in life AD.
Stay as positive as you can. Keep up with the activities you still enjoy. Try different ways to relax, like yoga or deep-breathing or meditation. Keep your body in good shape, too. Make sure you eat healthy food and get regular exercise. Exercising outdoors when possible is also important. My Mom always seems to have a little more clarity when we’ve been outdoors.
There are different paths for each person with AD and their care partner. I hope this episode gives you something you can take advantage of.