Aunt Connie, my mother’s oldest sister, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about a month after my mother was. Is this a coincidence? My cousins and I sure hope so.
Though no specific gene has been found which proves Alzheimer’s is hereditary (unless it is Familial Alzheimer’s Disease – FAD – which is rare), Alzheimer’s has been known to show up in families as “clusters.” Having my aunt and mother in the same cluster has been a blessing for the support we girls give each other, but also a curse as it doubles our pain. We share the same nightmare and hope one of us is strong enough at any given time to see the other out of tomorrow's dream.
When the fear and frustration become overwhelming, we’ll often resort to humor tinged with guilt for laughing until we can’t breathe. Our favorite scenario includes the inflicted siblings sharing a room in an elder facility. But would they share it as sisters or strangers?
“What if they meet each other and MY mother says to YOUR mother, “Wow, you look just like one of my sisters….oh, what's her name….” I’ll say.
“No, no!” Joan interrupts, “What if I show up at the home and YOUR mother introduces me to MY mother as her niece, and my mother says – nice to meet you?”
But there's always a flip side. My cousin Deb (Connie’s other daughter) and I will often discuss where we will be if our fates turn out to be the same as our mothers’. Neither of us has children. Who will be our “Lisa” and “Deb” and “Joan?”
“Well, then…we’ll have to go into a home together,” Joan will say, “and just turn the place upside down!”
In the meantime, we do our best to keep active, eat right, and exercise our brains. And when things get tough…we laugh through mingled tears.
The 4 Pillars of Alzheimer's Prevention - http://www.alzheimersprevention.org/intro_4_pillars.htm