Jack Cohen – Life on Planet Alz
I wrote “Life on Planet Alz, in 2017 as an account of my experiences trying to cope with my wife Naomi’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). It has now been featured on the web-site of an organization named AlzAuthors, which consists of ca. 200 authors of books about AD. (Miriam’s book “The Lost Kitchen” was also featured on this site a few months ago)
Much has happened since I wrote this story. We moved down to Beer Sheva to be near our married daughter Miriam, because it was becoming increasingly difficult to cope with Naomi’s unpredictable outbursts. Then after 8 months we were forced to institutionalize Naomi because I could no longer cope, even with a 24/7 carer. We were very lucky to find a small and pleasant Home with a closed Alzheimer’s ward so close by, only 5 mins drive.
I visit her every day, usually I feed her lunch to make sure she eats. It has now been a year since she has been in there and she has deteriorated somewhat, mostly in her ability to walk, she now tends to shuffle, which may be the result of sitting for so long as much as the disease. They do get physiotherapy and activities and I think we have the best situation we could expect under the circumstances. She still recognizes me, but she is confused about who I am. Such is life.
Life on Planet Alz is a true story about coping with my beloved wife’s devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the terrible scourge of our age. In general, people are living longer and diseases of the aged are becoming more prevalent. The major neurological disease of the aged is in fact AD. Whenever a person is diagnosed with AD, their spouse automatically becomes their primary carer and unwittingly also becomes a prisoner of the disease.
There have been many excellent books and descriptions of AD and its ravages upon the minds and lives of people, so why write another account? Each case of AD is unique and two novel aspects of this account are: the focus on the way that AD imprisons both the patient and their spouse in a constant process of deterioration, and the inclusion of an almost daily journal describing raw incidents that can be enlightening for the reader, and especially for the spouse of an AD sufferer. This illustrates the vicissitudes and the almost total preoccupation that this disease encompasses.
I hope that my particular take on his predicament as a spouse of an AD patient can help those who are dealing with this situation or who may have to do so in the future. It illustrates how the initial shock of the situation gives way to the realization that one has to learn to cope with it, and finally the acceptance that must come with time and experience.
How to describe memory? It’s like a landscape where snow has fallen. At first the surface is white and pristine. But as time goes by people trudge across the field and leave footprints. Then a cart goes by leaving parallel tracks, and then a car drives along the lane, leaving tire marks. Then the scene gets busier, children on bikes on the way to school or to play leave their tire tracks and women going shopping and so on, until the surface is crisscrossed with memories of what had happened. The analogy for Alzheimer’s disease is that all the tracks get inter-twined and mixed up and confusing, and then it all starts to melt!
We live on Planet Alz, which is a different planet to earth. You may think when you see us walking down the street that we look normal, but we are not, we are actually on a different planet. On our planet the normal rules do not apply. Everything is unpredictable, anything can happen at any moment.
The reaction to this book from family, friends, and the general public has been overwhelmingly positive. I self-published this book in 2017, but have not widely advertised it; it is available on Amazon.com.
I was born in London, UK, where I received a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. I moved to the US in 1966 and became a Professor of Pharmacology at Georgetown Medical School, Washington DC. Upon retirement, I moved to Israel, where I was the Chief Scientist at the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. Now I am a Visiting Professor of Chemistry at the Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheva, where I moved to be near my married daughter.
My website is at http://jackcohenart.com
My blog IsBlog is at http://www.jackscohen.wordpress.com