Suspenders. My father has decided he would like to wear suspenders, so we will be buying some today for him. That notion hit him while we are doing other things and suddenly became the most important thing in the world. For anyone passing us as we drove in the car, they might have been amused at what appeared to be a game of charades we were playing. My father was trying to explain what he needed to have by crossing himself in the front and over his shoulders with huge gestures. Since this came out of the blue, for us, my mother and I had no idea what exactly he wanted.
“A seat belt, that crosses over your shoulder?” I asked.
“No, “ my father said reaching over his head, “it’s more comfortable and like an ‘X’ and you wear it.”
From the back seat my mother chimed in, “is it hard or soft?”
“I don’t know, everyone wears them,” said my dad.
As I pondered the variety of strange objects he could be considering, somehow, suspenders did pop into my mind.
Pleased with myself, I burst out, “Suspenders!”
“No. They don’t suspend you,” my father said, going back into his physical description, crossing himself once again.
But by now my mother and I realize this IS what my father is looking for, so we begin our own charades to describe how they’re worn and what they do…and that the word for them is suspenders.
“Yes, I told you I need that big ‘X’,” sighs my father, “where can we find it?”
Every day there are moments like this one where we think we are having a conversation, but the words that my dad needs to get his point across simply don’t fire. I have my own moments like this…where a word escapes me…but I know very well it is not the same. And yet, when these moments hit with my dad, I want to do whatever I can to prevent this disease from affecting more people, if at all possible.
Last week, I signed up to be part of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry. There are some 36 million people around the world who live with dementia…either as a caregiver, friend or family member or maybe one who has the disease. From all the research out there, the numbers point to 115 million people likely to be impacted by 2050. The big frustration for us all in this camp is that there is no solid data to support ANY lifestyle changes to prevent Alzheimer’s. That’s because as far as we know, the disease is a combination of heredity, age and our environment. This registry is working with scientists who are doing the tough research to make an impact on Alzheimer’s.
There are a number of trials, right now only in the planning stages, that will hopefully take place later this year and next year. These are targeting people most likely to get Alzheimer’s within the next five years. The studies want people who carry rare genetic mutations that cause Alzheimer’s to hit early in life. Others will screen folks to find a common gene that predisposes one to the disease or signs of plaques in the brain.
You might read this and wonder why anyone would want to know…now…that this could be in your future. I would hope that with such research, more potential prevention medicines could be tested and used successfully. The more who decide to jump in and help, the faster we hope to arrive at a treatment that delays Alzheimer’s or prevents it entirely.
While I’m not a fatalist, I also know that my father’s condition will not change. In his world, there are ‘bright days,’ and others filled with varying degrees of confusion throughout the day. Our goal is for him to experience more ‘bright days’ and my mother and I are convinced that the more we tackle as a team, the better he seems to feel.
So, now that we know that my dad has determined he needs suspenders, we’re off to the store this afternoon in search of the best pair. Who are we to question why a big ‘X’ will make a difference? He thinks it will, and for today, that’s all that matters.
I am not alone. If you’re interested in learning more about any of these trials, or just want to know the latest information that’s out there, consider joining the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry by going to https://registry.endalznow.org/