November 26, 2009

Living with Alzheimer’s

Living with Alzheimer’s
Local resident expresses gratitude while
taking care of husband at home

Elaine Noon doesn’t read any books about Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t need to, she’s living with it.
Husband, Alden, was diagnosed two years ago with the disease that robs the body of the mind.
“The ultimate frustration and sadness is that the person I knew and met years ago is fading away,” Elaine said.
Elaine, originally from Utah, and Alden, from Wilton, met in a nightclub in Utah in 1986. “I said to my girlfriends, ‘Look at that good lookin’ guy.’ Before the night was over I invited him to dance” and today the couple are still hand in hand 24 years later.
From her cabin overlooking Lake Sakakawea from Garrison Bay, she tells that the diagnosis came when they were working in Mesquite, Nevada and she suspected that something wasn’t right. Alden would become disoriented in their condo and the Ginkgo and expensive oxygenated water wasn’t helping. At the doctor’s office a telling test was when Alden was asked to draw the hands of the clock to show that it was 4:00. He couldn’t. “I looked at that and thought, please God, no, you have to be kidding me.”
Within a few weeks, Elaine, who was typically a waitress, landed a job as the beverage supervisor at a casino with 63 people reporting to her. She was able to work and check on him during a fairly flexible schedule for about four months; then it became too much for both of them.
“He progressively got so much worse,” she recalled.
Elaine said her mantra after the initial diagnosis was, “Why me? What did I do wrong? I can’t live like this. Rage, anger, remorse, sadness. That was my mood for a long time.”
She said she was frustrated with Alden, “Why can’t you do this task? What is wrong with you? This is so stupid, quit it. I cried, wept and cried some more.”
She said she was attacking the person who should have been crying, raging and asking why. She said, “But he did not cry, or ever question, ‘Why me?’” She said she never once saw him cry out in anguish or frustration and that taught her to quiet her rage and focus on him.
Her full-time focus began 16 months ago when they moved back to the area.
“I hated to leave here once and I always regretted not living here,” she said.
Many days are spent in their two bedroom home with a daily trip to the post office or the grocery store.
The beastly winter of last year made life more challenging. Alden developed the flu in February and wasn’t getting any better. She called the ambulance but the 12-foot drifts on either side of the road made it nearly impossible for the ambulance to drive down their road.
The ambulance mirrors were shifted in and the ambulance workers climbed over roof-high drifts to get to the door. Once to the door they knew the gurney wasn’t going to work so they strapped Alden to a chair and dragged it across the snow.
Once at the hospital, he was allowed to go home the next day, only to have a relapse the following day. Again the ambulance was called, but this time a tractor had plowed a path and the ambulance could maneuver its vehicle and the gurney through the drifts.
Other days last winter neighbor Marlyn Zimmerman would get Noon’s groceries and then meet Elaine at a snow drift where Marlyn would heave them over to Elaine. Elaine said she tried to make the best of the heavy snow in the beginning. She positioned solar lamps in a huge drift and christened it Mount Everest.

The Weather Network